a balm on our viral souls: paul margree on john butcher, umbra, brandon lopez, lodz, black hat and elizabeth veldon

November 17, 2017 at 7:12 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume)

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga)

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions)

Lodz- Settlement (Wild Silence)

Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain)

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind)

 

Sniffling through the universe seems to be a seasonal guarantee for me at this time of year, as regular as my pilgrimage to Gateshead to wallow in the freshly-minted outbound sounds at the always-fantastic TUSK festival. Fortunately, the sonic blessings documented here pour down like silver from across the no-audience underground firmament. These artefacts are a balm on our viral souls. Atishoo. Much obliged.

 J-Butcher

John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume) vinyl LP

Originally released on Mark Wastell’s Confront label back in 2008, this is a welcome reissue for this astonishing work of improvisation. It sees Butcher visiting obscure parts of Scotland to play gigs in sites – including an old military fuel tank in the Orkneys with a 15-second echo, as well as an abandoned reservoir, a sea cave, a mausoleum and so on –chosen for their specific, idiosyncratic acoustic properties.

If Butcher’s response to these locations is frequently astonishing – witness the serrated foghorn blasts that moan across the void in ‘New Scapa Flow’– so is the way that these places seem almost to answer his forays. In ‘Wind Piece’, recorded at the Standing Stones of Stenness on the Orkney mainland, the eerie pitch-shifted coos that merge with birdsong and Butcher’s own gurgling breaths could be emanating from the rocks themselves. This is a series of duets, really, Butcher not playing the spaces as much as tussling with them, each performance existing in an ongoing state of modification as he negotiates the different sonic qualities of each of his unusual venues.

And, while there’s a sense of Butcher being nudged constantly out of his comfort zone, there’s an accompanying feeling that he digs the brinkmanship that this requires. Raw and hypnotic, time has only increased Resonant Spaces’ power.

Umbra

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga) cassette and download

Umbra ,aka Serbian sound artist Marija Balubdzic, weaves ghostly vocals over layers of abrasive electronics. Her work balances intricate, melancholy constructions with rougher-edged cuts, all created via a relatively simple setup of voice, laptop and a few pedals. ‘Unglued’ charts these opposing poles in Balubdzic’s aesthetic, casting a mysterious charisma that rewards sympathetic listening.

Occasionally, as on ‘Bear Bone’, Balubdzic resolves her disparate ingredients into a kind of quirky, jagged synth-pop. Elsewhere, her poetic monologues and growling sound design cast dark, nightmarish shapes (‘Self’). At the centre of the album is ‘Bone Madamme’, its overcast beauty like a Nick Cave murder ballad beamed through a cracked mirror. The folkish melody is half-Portishead, half-Blixa Bargeld as it shifts from despairing whisper to full-throated lament, “Don’t let him drown me down,” she implores, a thudding drum machine marking her recitation like the tolling of a funeral bell.

‘Unglued’ is another hit for the Czech Baba Vanga label, whose output encompasses dank, industrial crunches, Muscovite sound art collage and battered, head-spinning techno. Drawing most of their releases from the fringes of the eastern European underground, it’s essential listening for anyone into the global diaspora of weirdo sounds.

Holy Holy

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions) CD and download

I first came across bassist Brandon Lopez as part of Amirtha Kidambi’s amazing Elder Ones band, lending his fluid licks to Kidambi’s ‘Holy Science’, an inspired mixture of classical Indian music and portal-opening jazz. Here, Lopez teams up with drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulman to form a free music perpetual motion machine whose limber voyaging takes in abrasive furrows and airy melodic flights.

Although Lopez provided several composed melodic fragments for these pieces in lieu of a full score, which act as launch pads for the band’s expansive journeys, the trio is given plenty of freedom to take things in any direction they want. The fact that we can’t detect the points of transition only adds to the potency. A highlight comes two thirds of the way through the opening cut ’15.43’, when the trio coordinate in the higher register in a cascading, ululating wail, before hitting a surging torrent that recalls the maximalist swell of The Necks in full live force.

Corsano’s presence is generally an indicator of quality, and Lopez’s pedigree is assured post-Elder Ones, but it’s Yulman who’s the real delight here. His flinty clusters of notes shower ‘8.05’, the album’s closing track, in tough, glittering shards, opening up the trio’s frantic rhythmic glowers to let the sunshine in. His intro to ’21.21’ is dissonant and stately, initially restrained enough to let the other two drift by, then gaining pace to kick off a fractious knees-up. Holy jazz, Batman, this is really free.
Lodz

 Lodz – Settlement (Wild Silence) CD-R and download

Like a photograph of beautiful countryside that on closer inspection reveals a hooded figure skulking in the woods, Lodz – aka musician and philosopher Pauline Nadringy – mixes pastoral calm with spooky unease. Piano and female voice, often signifiers of deeply-felt emotion, are transformed into affectless, skeletal chants that would be disquieting even before grumbling electronics and prickly guitar figures eat away at their frayed edges.

‘Settlement’ offers us 10 of Nadrigny’s otherworldly soundscapes, with several matching reverb-laden piano figures with poems from writers including Guillaume Appollinaire and Hilde Domine. Nadringy’s treatments of these poems is elegant and inventive, often double-tracking herself singing and speaking the lines as well as providing wordless backing vocals. The texts come to us as if through a labyrinth of voices, their exact meaning less important than the sonic qualities of the syllables themselves.

‘Kasper Hausar Lied’ sets the Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet’s text among a subtle cacophony of prepared piano and squeaking electronics, John Cage meets Vashti Bunyan.

‘Que fait la mésange?’ by contrast seems to be aiming for a kind of chamber Troplicalia, with birdsong, children’s voices, toys and flutes cloaking Nadrigny’s murmurations in an agreeable hubbub. The whole thing is reminiscent of ruined Belle Époque ballroom populated by elegantly wrecked ghosts. Time for my quadrille, mon chere.

Black Hat

 Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain) Cassette and download

As Black Hat, Oakland’s Nelson Bean sculpts gummy electronics into viscous, smooth-edged lumps. These glistening pulsations are beatific and mysterious, somewhere between Aphex Twin’s ravey wickedness and Autechre’s crystalline sierras in the firmament of nonconformist electronics.

‘Impossible World’ is Bean’s second release on Chicago’s Hausu Mountain, after 2014’s ‘Thought of Two’. Although ‘Impossible World’ papers over its predecessor’s scuffed mechanics with a dermatological sheen, both albums have a precision-tooled edge that reveals the intricate depths beneath their curvilinear shapes. It’s head music I think, and even the drum-marked cuts such as ‘Cucullu’ that punctuate ‘Impossible World’s’ sticky ambient puddles hold back from full on beat fury, their off-centre cutups setting a flight path for the head rather than the hips.

Bean’s secret is to balance his love of detail on tracks like ‘Headband’, whose spongy synth chords and pastel bloops lock together like the tiny gears of a dayglo wristwatch, with empathy. Thus the soft, beaming explosions that smatter ‘Heliotrope’ add a spacey lyricism to its growling arrhythmia, prompting ever more giggles on each listen. Maybe we aren’t the robots, after all.

EV

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind) Cassette and download

Digital services such as Bandcamp may be better at matching Elizabeth Veldon’s prodigious rate of release – an album every day or so, usually – but this lovely cassette package from Brighton’s Third Kind Tapes is a welcome reminder of the riches that lurk in this prolific artist’s back catalogue.

‘Laika and Other Works ’is a collection of drone based pieces, short piano improvisations and spoken word cuts that showcases both the diversity and quality of Veldon’s discography. It’s all very good, basically, although the two ‘Laika’ tracks (originally released in 2015) are the highlight for me, their slices of gravely, phasing drone coming on appropriately cosmic and ominous. On ‘Like Babies Who Cannot Speak’ a recurring metronomic pulse adds an extra element of tension, as if a squad of militant woodpeckers had taken over mission control.

That things never descend into retro-hipster-kitsch (Russians! dogs! Space! Communism!) is due partly to ‘Work With Animals’, a new spoken word piece. Veldon recites then loops a quote from Oleg Georgivitch Gazenko, part of the Sputnik 2team responsible for Laika’s mission: “Work with animals is a source of suffering for all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it….We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.”

The four sentences get more fragmented with each repetition, descending finally into a kind of heartbreaking digital gibberish. It’s short but powerful and shifts ‘Laika & Other Works’ from being a historical curio to a lament for the forgotten victims of the space race and a despairing castigation of the ways we treat those species with which we share a planet.

 

John Butcher

Baba Vanga

Tombed Visions

Wild Silence

Hausu Mountain

Third Kind Records

-ooOOoo-

shuffling huffer: rfm on cannon bone, ivy nostrum, penance stare, depletion and neil campbell

November 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records)

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label)

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label)

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head)

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk)

cannonbone

Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

Om, Lightning Bolt, Ruins.

Rocking bass and drums duos are thin on the ground eh?  So add another much-needed twosome to this proud duo-pile.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Cannon Bone.

Nottingham-based duo Daniel Murray (bass) and Rich Park (drums) reject the ubiquitous six-string and its ceaseless attention-seeking for a solid, dependable rhythm approach that still blisters like hot Szechuan pepper.

The riff becomes the king, repetition the queen and together they rule a land of lurid flexible strings and tightly wound skins.

Half instrumental / half traditional sung-song the ghosts of Roxy Music, Young Marble Giants and the aforementioned Ruins haunt tunes like ‘Seahorse’, ‘Is that OK?’ and ‘Progressive Dancing Shoe’ respectively.

Such an eclectic mix revels in the invention going back-to-basics requires so detail becomes focused on textures, the quality of the fuzz and the dry crack of a snare.  It’s so easy to get lost in the canyons of fizzing electricity and compressed air each side plays in a sort of deceptive time-puddle.  The more you poke your stick in the deeper it gets.

But all this is mere dressing to the powerfully muscular playing – a rigorous and elemental musical snarl as infectious as Darby Crash’s dental work.

The dynamics are indeed the key here so the punishing pounding is coupled with a delicate tom roll, the explosive bass-harmonix smother a melody that’s perfectly cherry, cherry.

Like a horseshoe in a boxing glove – K.O. to Cannon Bone!

Ivy Nostrum

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label) Lurid pink Cassette

Two side-long constructions pieced together by the fair hand of RFM scrivener Paul Margree.

The helpful sleeve notes say these pieces feature the autoharp (broken), domestic field recordings and free sound among other wonderful things.  But what they don’t say is how damn lovely some of this is.

The autoharp pieces are bright and sunny; each broken pluck becomes a golden beam of light.  The electronic bleats are neither too sharp nor too gritty and seem to be formed instead from fresh pink marzipan being all smooth and almondy.

Side B ‘We Weren’t Really Dressed for the Weather’ features some speech software rattling around like an embarrassed Orac in a ruptured poly tunnel until the autoharp make another Wicca appearance. Lo-impact movements clatter like Tupperware underneath some charming whistling.

But of course…like much musique concrète it’s the placement that makes the thing sing.  I don’t know why a low undulating throb sits so perfectly with human-child chatter and bulbous metallic ringing.  But it does…it most certainly does.

Not sure where you can even grab this pink tape – tweeting @PaulMargree might be a good place to start yeah.

penance stare

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label) Cassette and digital album

Ex-Etai Keshiki and Melting’s, ELN plays all manner of guitars, basses, synths, drum machines and effects boxes to create a super-dark compressed tablet of riffage on the mighty House of Bastet.

A true one-woman-black-metal-band she does what is seemingly impossible and makes a drum machine really swing on awesome closer ‘Bleaken’ as it well and truly admonishes the gas-bloated riffs.   But I’m getting ahead of myself…

These four songs seem to blur the edges between industrial, shoegaze and black metal taking the most interesting elements of each and dousing it with lighter fluid.  For an old duffer like me, who, although a fan, doesn’t listen to metal much anymore this is a breath of fresh air.

Opener ‘Persona Non Grata’ has the heft of Godflesh yet the brutal riffs are played with an almost funk sense of timing – it’s all about the accents and half-spaces; rejecting the 4/4 for a more freewheeling, loose attack.  ‘A Lack of All Things’ and ‘Moon in Scorpio’ , are no-less heavy and feature ultra-disturbed vocals buried way, way deep in the mix so they sound almost like the wind rushing through nude branches.

This tape plays the same on both sides so before long I’m back to that killer fourth track ‘Bleaken’.  And now I’m more accustomed to the black-grammar I can make out the faintest howls under that pulverising thrashing – squaring that circle, lighting the thirteenth candle.

Thanks – Andy Crow for extra journalistic brain-power on this one.

Depletion

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head) One-sided Cassette

Cold psychic disturbance from Depletion all wrapped up in black and grey photocopies.

Never one for pure noise-for-noise-sake Martyn Reid pitches his monochrome tones against each other creating deft occult harmonics.

The opener ‘Intra Muros’ sets up a warm baffling of feathered obstacles.  The soft oily edges soon reveal sharp poisoned barbs but only after you realise your ankles are streaked with blood.

‘Elegy’ appears to be a gradually descending note made of brushed steel that’s being dragged down an underpass.  The heavy throb of traffic makes the concrete rumble until all begins to vibrate in electric unison.

Machine thinking is captured on ‘Synthex 1’.  Let’s be honest…it was never going to be the mechanical clanking predicted in the 1950s but more like this smooth logical curve – effortlessly coiling and unwinding picking up the stray debris of algebra and the universal language of mathematics.   And what does that mean for ‘Synthex 2’?  As this has an altogether more abrasive feel, toothed and barbaric in places even, I guess the machines have discovered capitalism.

The dramatic closer ‘Deaths Door’ finally seems to make sense of the cryptic dedication to Virginia Maskell mentioned on the sleeve.  A shuffling huffer, there is no clean machinery or warm analogue here.  This is the foul breath of an underground tube tunnel; meaty-moist and sweetly overpowering.  The resulting shuddering shakes like a wet dog with arcs of spray as crooked as arthritic fingers.

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

When I was a young teen a dusty, many-dubbed tape circulated my group of friends.  Handed down from an older brother or sister (I forget which) it contained songs by The Very Things, Alien Sex Fiend, Ausgang and The Virgin Prunes. For me this was a Rosetta Stone document.  Being under 18 (and looking it) I had no way into the underground culture of clubs.  Records were expensive and most zines I had access to ignored this fascinating middle ground between the chart pop I’d been brought up on and the weirdness I’d sniffed but couldn’t quite locate.

I’m guessing Neil Campbell had a similar moment but was obviously knocked hardest by The Virgin Prunes.  Hard enough for him to claim them as his favourite band – and I’m sure you can all remember how important and considered that personal accolade is when you are a young person*.

But what does it all sound like? These are ‘re-imaginings and reactions to’ rather than straight covers I’m guessing.  On ‘Political Problems’ Neil’s rich baritone voice intones a set of eldritch lines, at first reading like poetry and then slipping and sliding over each other to end up perilously looped ‘like a crazy singer in a band that’s lost for words’ over Neil’s signature wet electronic squelch.

Teasing us with an almost four minute fade-in ‘Red Metal’ conjures up micro-moments of guitar pick and electric squall in a lovely, lovely drift-piece.  Gradually shifting like winter sunlight this warms up the bones like a good chicken soup and somehow makes me feel pretty darn Christmas-y!

The closer, a Bongwater-esque, ‘No Clouds were in the Sky’ is quite beautiful.  A folk-tinged wriggle of acoustic guitar loops/looped vocals/spoken word/freak-out electricals all writhing like fresh chicks in a nest.

Innocent? You bet.  And with innocence possibly one of the hardest emotions to get right in music I’m sure that Gavin Friday would be delighted.

*I’m assuming you are an oldster like me eh?

Cannon Bone Bandcamp / Cannon Bone World

Penance Stare Bandcamp

Chocolate Monk

-ooOOoo-

have cake/eat it: rob hayler on tusk festival 2017

November 4, 2017 at 11:34 am | Posted in midwich, musings, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2017

[Note: for part one of this year’s TUSK story, in which I talk about the year past, how I blagged onto the bill, what I planned to do and what it meant to me, see here. This part is about the festival itself and begins on the morning of Friday 13th October. Also, I’d like to repeat the same provisos as last year. Firstly, I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. Secondly, I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. Finally, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK website open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. TUSK will fill the archives with videos of all performances in due course. If no credit is given then pictures are by me, apart from the last one.  OK, enuff – on with the show.]

FRIDAY

If I am not at least 10 minutes early then I feel late. Stir that perfectly rational compulsion into a gumbo of stress and excitement and it is no surprise that I was at Leeds railway station a full hour before the departure time for my train. I took the edge off by chatting to an amiable, middle-aged, Glaswegian rocker – all Chrissie Hynde bang and black and white spandex leggings. Her phone rang and the tone was the opening bars of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. Beautiful. Once the train arrived, 40 minutes late due to ‘police attention at Sheffield’, I’d been sat there for longer than the journey would actually take.

But – ahh! – who doesn’t enjoy staring wistfully out of a train window listening to crystalline electronic music whilst pretending to be in a European art movie? Alas, this Kraftwerkian reverie was impossible. The carriage was packed, the seat cramped, the luggage rack a stack of cases as unviable as a jenga tower made of dog chews. Even a soundtrack of A480 by KARA-LIS COVERDALE couldn’t gloss the snores of the drunk bloke in front. Luckily the hotel was mere steps from the station and I was able to get there, check in and throw my stuff down in minutes. My dinky single room, with ensuite wet room and surprisingly large telly, was pleasantly functional, like a prison cell for hipsters. I imagine it’s like where you’d end up if you were convicted of burning down Scandinavian churches.

The reason I was in a hurry was that I wanted to get to Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead in time for the FESTIVAL IS SUDDEN performance at 3pm. I splashed into a cab (such rock and roll decadence!) and was there with mere minutes to spare. The show, organized by Giles Bailey and CIRCA projects (Dawn Bothwell, Adam Denton, Sam Watson – more on Dawn and Adam anon) was the opening event of their MY PART OF YOUR HOME exhibition and the de facto beginning of TUSK weekend. I’m afraid I clocked little of this compact, elegant gallery, or its contents, as I was too busy glad-handing and being overexcited beforehand, then too busy being engrossed by the ritual unfolding.

It was a very smart idea, perfectly executed: six artists, set up in different parts of the building, performed for ten minutes each. Dawn carried a cylindrical, portable speaker – emitting bird song – which she placed in front of the performer when their time was up, we then followed the chirping to the next station. Each segment seemed full, but not rushed, which was amazing as they included, for example, slowly evolving drone from CULVER (pictured) and two dance performances, one from BIANCA SCOUT framed within beautiful piano pieces and one from VICTORIA GUY in which she didn’t stop spinning even during a costume change. The experience as a whole was deeply satisfying and (this is not a bad thing) emotionally draining. After snatching brief ‘hellos’ with Dawn and some of the other stragglers/organisers I joined those ushered out into the sun so the gallery could close. I walked back through a bright, blustery afternoon, being nearly run over at every junction, burning my mouth on delicious fish and chips as I trotted in more or less the right direction. A knot I’d been carrying between my shoulder blades for who knows how long seemed to unravel. I found myself very, very happy.

Back at the hotel I had time to sort out my gear and despair at my useless packing. Given that I’d done nowt but think about TUSK for weeks how on earth had I managed to bring so few shirts and so much underwear? I mean DUNCAN HARRISON is a very beautiful young man but I wasn’t expecting to literally wet myself with excitement in his presence. Ach, no matter, time to stumble down the hill, across the swing bridge over the Tyne and up the other side to Sage.

I arrived to find DRONE ENSEMBLE in full flight on the concourse and, disgracefully, paid them absolutely no attention. Instead I wandered about saying ‘hello’ to people, shaking hands, babbling into ears – mainly those of long-suffering gentle giant Joe Murray, RFM editor and one of TUSK’s organisers, and Paul Margree formally of We Need No Swords, now plying his trade with RFM and anywhere else words meet noise…

…I even clapped at the end as if I’d been listening. What an arsehole, eh? Heh, heh. As I topped the stairs Duncan rushed past on his way backstage and I pressed a package into his hand. I shivered with pleasure as Joe helped me secure my Artist/Crew weekend wristband and, as it contained an introduction written by me, bagged three copies of the programme.

The evening’s entertainment in the prestige venue, Sage Hall 2, started with a right good kick up the arse. The expectant crowd were confronted with four – occupied – body bags and the performance began with a nightmarish sequence as the members of SWARM FRONT screamed, groaned, clawed and cut their way out. The remainder of the set was a theatre of cruelty: lines were intoned, sung, bellowed (“Get this into your thick fucking skull”, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”) and melons bearing the faces of Gateshead councillors were violently despatched whilst a power-electronic soundtrack rearranged my viscera.

Looking for clues in the programme (“…here with the intention to weaponize the banality of liberal institutions…”) and talking to Dawn afterwards suggested this was a protest/curse focused on those responsible for the imminent closure of important, much loved Gateshead venue The Old Police House and/or the faux progressive credentials of the Sage itself (bit more on this later). Fucking strong start.

DUNCAN HARRISON prepped his gear as the stage crew mopped up blood and melon pulp (ha, c’mon, being able to write sentences like that is why I’m in this game). I was pleased to see the present I’d given him – a framed photo of John Cage (explanation unnecessary) – looking over his table full of noise-making detritus. His set was a lesson from a virtuoso on how to collage subtlety and humour with mallet-to-the-knackers noise. The opening section of real-time tape rec and scruffle was masterful, the glugly pop and repeat vocals charming and intimate and the hard noise – a bunch of tinnitus enhancing key chain alarms laid out like a Pueblo clown’s protecting chalk circle – suitably punishing. The audience, including me, was rapt, delighted.

There was just time for a little professional jealousy before THE TEA TOWELS rocked up. This duo of Gavin Montgomery and RFM staffer Luke Vollar, both ex of no-audience underground legends Castrato Attack Group, happened to be in the right ear at the right time when SHAREHOLDER pulled out so two tapes and no gigs into their ‘career’ here they are filling a prime Friday evening slot at TUSK! Bollocks to that – 18 bloody years, I (half) joked and I had to beg my way into a Saturday bloody lunchtime show in a glorified school assembly hall! Huh, showbiz is cruel, eh?

Anyway, my inner David Van Day was banished as soon as they started playing. I was hooked, grinning at the guileless lo-fi thump and groove. I wrote a long list of possible influences but pretty much anything can be poured into the rubber jelly mould these chancers were using as a template. I had Bongoleeros as the sponge fingers at the bottom, rising to Camberwell Now as the sprinkles on the top with the intervening trifle liberally laced with crushed co-codamol and dark rum. You might as well just grab a big spoon and enjoy it. They went down a treat.

At this point tiredness, over-excitement and anticipation of a full-on Saturday began to smear my focus. I understand VALERIO TRICOLI was a festival highlight for some, but for me ten minutes sufficed and the rest of his set provided a handy break for socialising outside before headliners UNITED BIBLE STUDIES.

(Top pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I’ve had an interest in UBS and affiliated label Deserted Village for years (check out Gavin Prior’s Always Summer Somewhere – one of my favourite albums of recent times) and was looking forward to being transported by these veterans of cosmic and free folk. The experience was sure to be enhanced too by the presence in the line-up of Sophie Cooper – genius musician, daring promoter, RFM alumni, all-round enthusiast and glorious credit to the species – on vocals and trombone. I have to admit to sniggering a bit at the ‘misty forest’ nature of the lyrics – never been able to take that seriously – but what I did see was presented with care, skill and passion. I’m sure if I’d been in a fitter, or perhaps more altered, state it would have been transcendent. As it was I had to admit that it wasn’t for me – or, more accurately, that I wasn’t for it – and slink away back to the hotel, feeling like a ghost as I picked my way unheeded through the chaos of chucking out time on the Newcastle side of the river.

SATURDAY

My artist info sheet requested my presence at the venue at 11am on Saturday morning so, of course, I was settled in Sage at 10. I sat at a window table on the concourse and distractedly tried to revise my notes. After about fifteen minutes of stress induced gastric tightening I risked lifting a cheek for what I hoped would be a discreet puff but instead I let rip with possibly the loudest fart of my entire life. Ricocheting off the plastic chair it reverberated around the vast atrium like the whole of yesterday’s DRONE ENSEMBLE set condensed into three wet seconds. I mention this event for two reasons. Firstly, it was well funny. I couldn’t help laughing, as did the bloke sitting three tables away from me. I was, after all, a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Viz comic. Secondly, it was one of those beautiful bodily sensations – like a hot shower after a day’s walk, like listening to Aqua Dentata, like eating a really good fish finger sandwich – that leaves you feeling absolutely content and in tune with the universe. Sure, I’d still be nervous but I knew the day ahead was going to be just fine.

At about ten thirty I trotted upstairs and over the next two hours I met the lovely Orchi and David the stage manager who were going to help me through the afternoon, had the great pleasure of shaking hands with ANDREW LILES, said hello to the ever-accommodating Joe who was to be my beautiful assistant during the show later, plugged in my midwich set up FOR THE LAST TIME…

(Pic by Duncan Harrison, @Young_Arms)

…and was bear-hugged by my old mucker Ben Young, university friend and Newcastle resident who had a day pass to hang out. I also chatted to Lee Etherington, TUSK head honcho, who was exhibiting his tidy knack of appearing at exactly the right moment to exude an air of relaxed confidence and say helpful and reassuring things. He is the Mr Benn’s shopkeeper of the avant-garde. I sloped out of ANDREW LILE’s satisfyingly chewy set at the halfway mark to meet up with my panellists and, all of a sudden, it was time for the WHAT HAPPENS UNDERGROUND discussion.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

We settled into our comfy chairs, toyed with the microphones we’d been given and I started proceedings by reading a round of introductions:

My name is Rob Hayler and I’ll be your host for this hour (Aside: yes, I did write down my own name – I can usually remember it, true, but I thought it best not to tempt fate in this high pressure situation). For the last 18 years I have performed and recorded as midwich and my LAST EVER SHOW using that name will follow this talk. I also founded the radio free midwich blog and coined the term ‘no-audience underground’ to describe the largely self-sufficient noise scene that some of us here are part of.

Next is Soo Fitz, or Susan Fitzpatrick as her Mam might insist. As well as performing as Joyce Whitchurch and as half of Acrid Lactations, Soo lectures in Geography and has written on such topics as the spatial politics of DIY gigs and the ways the term ‘community’ gets deployed and politicised in the context of urban mega events such as the European Capital of Culture. My RFM colleague Joe Murray described her as “one of the most frighteningly pure improvisers I’ve had the joy to watch.”

Hopefully everyone here will recognize Duncan Harrison from his gobsmacking performance in Sage 2 last night (Aside: I wrote that before Duncan’s performance, of course, but luckily he had smacked our gobs). Duncan is a skilled collagist in both visual and audio art and we love his work because as well as being properly thought through it never fails to be thoroughly entertaining. He’s no stranger to academia but is happy call out bollocks when he hears it and to get dirt under his fingernails with us no-audience scuzzbuckets.

…and here’s Dawn Bothwell. Dawn should be well known ’round these parts, not least for her performance in Hen Ogledd with Rhodri Davies and Richard Dawson at last year’s TUSK and for her other musical projects such as Pentecostal Party. She also curates for CIRCA Projects and The Northern Charter and those that visit The Shipley Art Gallery here in Gateshead during the festival can see the My Part Of Your Home exhibition that CIRCA Projects put together. Yesterday’s Festival is Sudden event there was a great kick start to this year’s TUSK too.

Finally, Adam Denton. A musician and researcher with a background in guitar noise and releases on many very smart labels, Adam plays solo as Swan Hunter, is half of the duo Trans/Human and has worked extensively with Nicole Vivien Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre. Joe Murray’s one sentence account of his work runs as follows: “generally has a load of gear on the table and makes it all sound pretty gnarly.” (Aside: Adam groaned afterwards at how out of date this account of his activities was so I recommend interested parties get busy with Google to catch up.)

Interesting bunch, eh? I began by asking each panellist in turn for some ideas as to what it means to be ‘underground’ nowadays and we took it from there. As I have no notes or transcript it is safest to wait to hear what was said for yourself once it is available via the TUSK archive. I’ll just talk a bit about the experience and some thoughts that occurred to me as a result. Firstly, having a microphone and a large room full of people waiting to hear what you have to say isn’t entirely alien to me but I haven’t done it for years, nor have I ever had to do the cat-herding needed to keep a five-way, real-time discussion on track in front of an audience. I had, naively perhaps, imagined a light, celebratory hour during which we praised each other’s efforts, made recommendations, told d.i.y. stories and slapped a few sacred cows on the arse, and there was some of that, but there was also plenty of darker and more serious stuff about the appropriation of ‘culture’ and ‘community’, suspicions as to the motives and competence of funding bodies and concerns about the availability of venues and the overall future for d.i.y. art and music.

The topic that has stuck with me is the question of the availability of venues. What with the Old Police House being closed after TUSK weekend and the actions of Gateshead Council clearly causing anger and frustration – see Friday night’s SWARM FRONT performance for one righteously furious spin on it – this issue is currently an open wound. It seems to me that running a venue is not something I have given sufficient thought to in my, *ahem* ‘theorising’. As a promoter I follow the ‘Dan Thomas method’: work out what you can afford to lose on the event, plan accordingly, find ways of getting it done. As an artist I don’t think I’m owed a damn thing, not even by the very few people who give a monkey’s about my ‘work’. However, the lass from building regulations will not be satisfied with a vegan curry and taxi fare, nor can the electricity bill be settled with £20 from the door and a sofa to sleep on. This seems to be the place where all my punkish nobility and integrity gets bloodied by grim reality.

That said, there does always seem to be somewhere. In the decades I’ve been attending shows here in Leeds, for example, many venues have been and gone, or remain and go through phases of welcome or hostility depending on changes in management (The Adelphi – once a Tetley draymen’s pub and spiritual home of Termite Club is now a place where beardos nod approvingly at how reasonable ten quid is for a burger). One of the benefits of there not being many of us is that we don’t need a giant box to sit in. Adam suggested, in a despairing tone, that the future might be gigs in people’s houses but I think, well, yeah, on a temporary basis whilst we sort stuff out, why not? One of the finest shows I’ve seen in recent years was Ocelocelot in Kieran Piercy’s basement… We survive, like the rats we are.

But I digress…

At the end of the hour Sophie Cooper, sat out front, piped up with a glorious gush of love and enthusiasm for music, her friends and the scene and that gave me the opportunity to end on a high. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Soo, Duncan, Adam and Dawn for being game and joining me – I’m sure we could have gone on all afternoon once we’d got warmed up. It was a great thing to be part of and I’ve been pleased that reaction to the debate has been positive with many commenting that it provided food for thought.

One last thing: I promised Lee Stokoe that there would be some biting of the hands that feed us and, aside from swearing at The Guardian, I feel bad for wimping out on that. So, for the record: fuck The Guardian (again) for its sudden and pathetic ‘interest’ in the underground, that rag has become a disgrace to its legacy. Fuck The Wire for being an unreadable, soulless, joy vacuum. Fuck The Quietus for being even worse: a relic of an irrelevant critical empire, a black hole of boredom. Fuck Sage for being a ‘liberal arts’ funding-hoover whilst hosting UKIP and licking up corporate vomit in return for sponsorship money. Fuck the Arts Council for, whoo boy, where to even start with that hive of corruption, that shameful gibberish factory? And finally, fuck TUSK for… heh, heh – nah, TUSK is alright. Sand in the vaseline, innit?

Up next was midwich. Excuse me quoting myself from my previous post…

Anyone who has spoken to me before or after any midwich gig of recent years has heard me complaining about the growing unreliability of the Roland MC-303 Groovebox that has been (almost) my sole instrument since 1999. It’s a remarkable machine but it has been hammered to the point that getting what I want out of it involves an ungainly combo of cajoling and brute force. I have long spoken of a ‘final’ performance. This would be a ‘Greatest Hits package’ ending with the tearing up of the manual and the dismantling of the machine, handing out keys, pots and components to audience members as souvenirs. What more satisfyingly perverse way could there be to end a long term man/machine relationship than with a ritual disembowelment at a prestige venue?

…as this is pretty much what happened. I took my boots off, announced what was to occur and pressed play on a recording of seagulls over Chesil Beach.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I was having my cake and eating it here – sounds of the sea are a ridiculous ‘ambient’ music cliché but, even so, it does still set the mood and it is a lovely piece. When I was ready I slowly faded up into a drone and started wigging out to the rhythms emerging from it. The sound was perfect (hey, it can always be louder), the vibe immersive, the lighting sympathetic, the room full. Much to my amusement I even had a smoke machine. I was very, very happy – in the moment – enjoying myself hugely.

(Pic by Joe Murray, @joeposset)

As an interlude I used Joe’s piece as posset from eye for detail, the charity fundraiser album of midwich remixes. ‘a moment of stillness’ is a selection of my writing for this blog, read by Joe then subjected to his dictaphonic jinking. From this I began a version of the title track from Inertia Crocodile – this throb, collapsing in on itself, was the pan sonic tribute part of the set and, I thought, a fitting last track to play live on this beautiful, soulful machine. It ended with a crescendo as I used both hands and my forehead to hold down every key – this was my ‘A Day in the Life’ moment – before the final hands off.

(Above Joincey, @joincey, below Joe, @joeposset)

OK, now the theatre. I pressed play on my little mp3 walkman again, this time the brunt, a favourite lengthy drone I was going to use as cover and – because I thought it would be funny – put on a white crime scene investigation overall that I’d lifted from a murder mystery themed works away day, comically struggling to get my right arm in. As Sophie wailed…

DON’T DO IT!

I flipped the box and got busy with the screwdriver. The screws were tiny, black and fixed into a black backplate so under the dim stage light and with wildly shaking hands it took a moment to get started. For the obvious reason, I couldn’t rehearse this so I was going off some half-remembered service-and-repair pictures I’d seen on the internet. I had planned a gentle and respectful demise – surgery not butchery – but, as I couldn’t find a couple of hidden screws, I resorted to force to yank out the ribbons and snap the circuitry. It felt… good, complicated. Whilst this was going on Joe distributed the torn pages of the manual in school assembly style (“Take one and pass them along please, I’m afraid you’ll have to share.”). I slipped a couple of bits – including the volume control, bane of our relationship – into my own pocket and lined up the rest of the pieces on the floor in front of the stage.

(Pic by Joe, @joeposset)

To everyone’s amusement, David the stage manager lit them with a swirly lighting effect. And that was that: 18 years of midwich, done. I faded out the soundtrack, took a bow, dug the applause and invited all comers to snatch a souvenir. It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying moments of my involvement with music, with the ‘underground’, with all of this.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey, note Andy of TQ fanzine in the foreground making off with a massive chunk.)

Fortunately, no other act was following me in the hall so I had a few precious minutes to gather myself together and pack up with the house lights on. David Howcroft of No Audience Underground tapes (see review below) took the entire contents of the bin I’d dumped my CSI suit into so look out for some interestingly packaged tapes from him. I walked out feeling triumphant and shamelessly fished for compliments amongst those milling around on the balcony (although I did make sure and ask Mike Xazzaz if he liked it because I knew that surly bastard would be honest and say ‘no’ which, of course, he did. Heh, heh – I love him so much). When sufficient approbation had been collected I wandered back across the river to the hotel with my pal Ben. At this point I began to notice the blood and cuts all over my hands.

Ben and I met at university in Leeds in 1991 where we shared digs and both studied philosophy. I will be forever grateful that being around the insufferable bell-end that I was at the time (can you imagine me in my early twenties? I shudder at my former twattitude) didn’t put him off me for life and was delighted when we rekindled contact a few years back after he discovered this blog. Now a Newcastle resident and the father of a young lad himself we had arranged to cane Saturday together, albeit in a gentle, tired, middle-aged manner.

The original plan was to go to everything, including the afternoon show at The Old Police House to see LUSH WORKER, but once we sat down in a hipsterish pizza restaurant (it had a full size model of a horse, painted gold, looking out of the doorway – its arse in line with two pizza ovens inside) it was clear we weren’t going anywhere. Ben listened graciously to me babble on about what had just happened – I was beginning to feel a little shaky as the buzz subsided and was replaced with a diabetic hypo – then we caught up on life, parenthood, the world at large. Ben’s unimpeachable politics and the thoughtful, generous way he deals with the insanity surrounding us is an inspiration. His company was perfect.

Eventually we hauled ourselves out and back to Sage for an evening of socializing, showing off my workplace injuries and one damn musical highlight after another. Aside from greatly missing our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez whose appearance had made last year such an unforgettable event (I understand he watched the livestream of my set – bless you, comrade!) the 2017 line-up felt much stronger and more consistent throughout the weekend than that of 2016.

Take, for example, KINK GONG. Laurent Janneau – looking cool as fuck in this wonderful photo by Joe – presented a forty minute collage of chopped and layered field recordings, ebbing and flowing in a near-psychedelic audio approximation of culture shock, of travelling far outside your comfort zone. He also invited us to sit down and relax at the beginning of the set which was very polite. I welcomed the opportunity to stare at my shoes and concentrate entirely on the music though looking up revealed that rarest of exotic birds: a lap top artist who looked genuinely transported by what they were doing. He stared intently, smiled, closed his eyes, nodded to a favourite rhythm internal to the cacophony. It was a beautiful, charismatic performance.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Following that was one of the highlights of the festival, one of those joyous ‘what the fuck?’ moments that are la spécialité de la maison chez TUSK. STARAYA DEREVNYA, a collective of Russian/Isreali anarchists, played in near-total darkness in order to shift our attention from their strange collection of instruments, some clearly home-made or adopted (a rocking chair?), to the work of the artist using iPad software (an app called Tagtool apparently) to create and animate a visual accompaniment projected onto the screen above. I later found out that the band had pre-planned beginning, middle and end points and the rest was improvised, albeit rehearsed in a very disciplined way for a week beforehand. The visual side was sometimes a prompt or spur for the music, sometimes an interpretation of or reaction to what was being played.

At the time, stood in the dark, I knew nothing of these logistics and was simply and absolutely rapt. It was psychedelic and truly dream-like in a way that so little art described as ‘surreal’ gets anywhere near. It was fluid and varied in tone but consistent in atmosphere and never felt unsure of itself. Their was something folkloric about the vibe – like listening to a recording of your great great grandmother telling stories about what lived in the woods on the outskirts of her village in the old country, slipping in and out of a forgotten dialect as she reached back for the details. Ben and I chatted to the lovely Gosha, STARAYA DEREVNYA’s head honcho (for want of a better description), afterwards and he was humble and gracious as we gushed with praise.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Decades of involvement with noise have left me cynical and suspicious of costumes (likewise mess. As a former promoter I rarely enjoy it – this weekend’s melon pulp excepted, of course – as my first thought is ‘oh great, someone is missing the last bus to clean up that crap.’). There seems to be a zero sum relationship between the elaborateness of the set-up and the generic averageness of the actual music: ‘oh great, Mr. Blobby has heard a Merzbow CD’. With that in mind I stood at the back near the stairs for HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET but I needn’t have worried – it was ace.

Their squalling racket had an exuberant bounce to it, the rubbery al dente texture of a highly processed, alarmingly coloured food stuff, allegedly of ‘natural’ origin but about eight times removed by the laboratories of food science. The outfits – they were basically dressed as a gingerbread village – suggested the same folkloric setting as the tales interpreted by STARAYA DEREVNYA but this time described by a four year old after binging on cheese strings.

Finally then, Saturday was topped by BRAINBOMBS. At this point I was grey with tiredness and all set to split but the most un-TUSK-like behaviour of the crowd spiked me with something I remembered from my teenage years as a skate punk. There were a lot of people, mainly serious looking dudes in black t-shirts, intent on getting to the front. This was clearly a much anticipated event and when they started playing people moshed, shook fists and (unique in my experience of TUSK) threw a drink at the band. Blimey! This last led to the frontman making a twat of himself by walking off for a comically short time. Aside from the trumpet player looking a little nervous the rest of the band didn’t even stop playing. They were loud, heavy and fortunately the lyrics were inaudible but I’d had enough after three songs.

Walking through Newcastle at that time on a Saturday night proved pretty spicy. Nowt worrying – the only threatening behaviour I saw was one bloke challenging two coppers who were hassling a homeless guy. Good for him, I thought, as I scuttled past – it’s just that I’ve never seen a crowd so pissed. Everyone seemed distressingly young too. It was like walking through a Little Mix video but with all the participants drunk to the point of being unable to stand.  And screeching.

Back at the hotel I bathed my stinging hands, retired to bed and stared at nothing until well into the early hours, unable to sleep, processing the day.

SUNDAY

Sunday I woke early and raw – head thumping, hands aching – but in a buoyant mood. Needing air, I headed to the railway station shops for supplies, skipping merrily over the broken glass, discarded chips and pools of vomit that were already being swept up and washed away by weary looking council guys in a fleet of Scarab street cleaners.

I’d arranged to meet Ben again, this time with his partner Kadie and two-year old son Wynn, so was soon weaving my way through Quayside Market (clocking all the hipster-bait street food stalls with an eye out for my future lunch) and parking my arse on a railing. It was another glorious, blustery day and as I sat waiting I enjoyed the view and the satisfying whirr and clatter of bikes crossing the river using Millennium Bridge. We adjourned to Sage to indulge in more politics/parenthood chat over expensive flapjack before exchanging farewells. I had to hurry to get to Workplace Gallery in time for CLUB PONDEROSA LIVE at midday.

As I stood at a pedestrian crossing, mentally absent, my reverie was punctured by a fellow Tusker, later introduced as Emma, telling me that she’d enjoyed my set of yesterday. I considered this an inspired opening to a conversation and was instantly impressed by her taste and credibility. Indeed, my step got springier as I realised this event might have attendees that I hadn’t already milked for praise. On our arrival it appeared that things were running late, presumably due to the presence of jazz musicians, so pockets of support hung around outside chatting bollocks and wishing each other ‘good morning’. You must have noticed that the first event of a festival day is always considered the ‘morning’ whenever it occurs.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

Following herd instinct, there came a point when we knew it was time to crowd in and succumb to the all-enveloping embrace of BRB>CULVER. Kev (Wilkinson, crouched) and Lee (Stokoe, hunched) brought forth a roar of such depth and profundity that I don’t hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’.  This kind of thing is a shortcut to nirvana for me – time and desire are obliterated, I want nothing but to be here now experiencing this noise.  It is primal, without scale, yet full of detail – like the sea pulling a beach down the coast one wave at a time, every pulse dragging uncountable pebbles over each other.  That the pair magicked this into being with such (seeming) nonchalance was too much for me.  I lost my shit.

(Aside: coincidental accompaniment for the performance was a projected slideshow of photographs taken by JOINCEY, which were being shown as part of the TUSK/Workplace Gallery CLUB PONDEROSA exhibition.  JOINCEY’s beat is the beshitted pavements of crap town Britain and his deadpan documentation of the depressingly ridiculous, the comically underwhelming and the occasional, surprising moment of beauty or symmetry is brilliant.)

As nothing was going to follow that (with apologies to ARCHIPELAGO, who did) I let me stomach lead me back to the market, scored some sort of authentically Spanish/Geordie chicken wrap and warmed another of Newcastle’s fine railings with my backside.  Forgetting the film programme and enjoying the clement weather I decided to wander the city centre for a couple of hours.  I was looking at Batman outfits in Primark when I realised that it was time to return to the art.

At 5pm two of Saturday’s favourites got together for a collaboration in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.  Playing again in darkness, and again accompanying / accompanied by live animated painting, STARAYA DEREVNYA and HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET (this time without costumes) pooled resources to return us to a dream of staircases in the forest.  I can’t tell you much about it for the same reason I can only guess at what was passing through my mind as I fell asleep last night.  However, beforehand people sat behind me were discussing William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and this performance was a glove-like fit for the hypnagogic experience of losing yourself in that surreal masterpiece.  It was great – we stumbled out onto the balcony discombobulated, refreshed.

During KARA-LIS COVERDALE’s skittish and distracting (in a good way) set I found myself getting increasingly skittish and distracted (in a bad way) as I couldn’t find my wallet.  After checking every pocket in my clothing and every flap and cranny of my bag ten times during an extended self-fondle I resigned myself to an unwelcome walk back to the hotel.  It was there, of course, where I’d left it – an indication of how blown my mind was by this point of the weekend.  I arrived back at Sage in time to be ushered out again due to a fire alarm.  I would have really enjoyed a bellowing siren bouncing around that atrium but all we got was:

mahwahbwahmawahbawahanaamahwah

…only quieter and less distinct, which was either some early-NWW sub-vocalising or a safety announcement made through an inadequate PA.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Anyway, fuck all that shit because next for me was KLEIN.  She had a microphone, two metal lecterns – one for a laptop and a mixer on the other – and played with beer can in hand, parka hood (mostly) up.  The set was a rush of disorientating cross chatter, of glistening bubbles and of high velocity, jolting noise.  If KINK GONG had summoned the nature of travel, KLEIN held up a punched mirror to contemporary existence right where we stood.  It was arresting, beautiful, hilariously deadpan, unfathomable.  I grinned, helpless.  During one section – a shining glass pyramid built from shards of techno pop – I felt myself welling up:

THIS IS THE FUTURE!

…I thought.

Afterwards I was buzzing, hyped, gobsmacked, hovering two inches above the floor and all conversations descended immediately into teenage hyperbole:

Me: HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE THAT? IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!

Hapless Tusker: Yeah, it was pretty g…

Me [interrupting]; NO!! YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS: THINKING IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER OR BEING WRONG!!!

Heh, heh <deep breath>…

OK, whilst putting this piece together, I’ve been torn as to whether to talk about KLEIN being a young, black woman and, if so, what to say.  But I think I have to.  Reading reviews of her recent EP for Hyperdub on sites such as Resident Advisor, her being young and black is not discussed, or even much remarked on, because in a dance music context being young and black is unremarkable.  Unfortunately, in the context of experimental music, especially ‘noise’, it is still unusual.  Looking around at the audience to make sure everyone was appropriately delighted, it occurred to me that KLEIN might be one of only a handful of young, black women in the building, possibly the only one.

Back when dominant trends in noise included leather-coated idiots screaming on about serial killers and race hate the absence of BME voices was entirely understandable – I didn’t really want to be part of it myself – but now, as that side of things has waned, or that anger refigured in more politically and artistically interesting directions, the lack of diversity is more puzzling and shaming.  I think that ‘we’ are a welcoming, open minded crowd with positive, progressive politics but then I would say that wouldn’t I?  I’m white, male, middle-aged, middle-class (more or less) and cis-gendered – and it is probably base assumptions still held by even well-meaning libtard snowflakes like me that are the problem.

For example, one of the most thrilling things about KLEIN’s set had been wondering where the hell it had come from.  I’m not usually fussed about biography but I couldn’t help wondering what influences and experiences led to her expressing herself in this manner.  I began thinking in dad-who-listens-to-1Xtra-when-he’s-washing-up clichés: R’n’B, YouTube, minicabs, pirate radio (showing my age there – is that even still a thing?) because it couldn’t be ‘the canon’ could it?  Then I took a step back and was embarrassed – I don’t know a thing about KLEIN (her hilarious, deflecting blog is no help with ‘facts’ either).  She could spend her evenings discussing plunderphonics and listening to Throbbing Gristle bootlegs, who knows?  Not me.  Sexism and gender bias is in there to.  In the programme notes I described KLEIN’s music as:

…cut-up soul futurism – all silk and pinking shears…

I meant to convey, in a quick and entertaining way, the idea that her smooth source material is chopped into jagged pieces then layered and rearranged by whatever processes she uses to compose.  So why did I use an analogy to dressmaking?  Fucking hell, I’ve got some thinking to do.  Would I have been so stoked had the same set been performed by a middle-aged white guy?  Probably not – I think the music was objectively exhilarating but I’m certain that it was given an edge by the feeling that I was witnessing something new and forward looking.  Mulling it over afterwards, that edge has only been sharpened.  I’m going to use it to cut away some of my mental flab.

By now I was pretty much delirious and sprawled out downstairs with Joe and friends wondering where the energy for the rest of the evening would come from.  Luckily, at that exact moment Joe received a message via the TUSK politburo whispa-ma-phone alerting him to a pizza delivery for the crew.  Using his magic lanyard, he whisked us backstage where we shamelessly stole food from the lovely staff and volunteers who had spent all weekend helping us.  For some reason this moment of naughtiness has stuck with me – a funny little irreverent highlight.  The sustenance was very welcome too.

I surfed the carbs and fat rush to the final set of the festival…

(Above pic by Mike Winship, @MikeWinship, below pic by Kevin Geraghty-Shewan, @deadheaduk)

So, at 11.30pm on a Sunday night in Gateshead I stood at the lip of the stage (no unseemly Brainbombs-style moshpit today) and watched NURSE WITH WOUND. There’s James Worse, dada prophet reciting his own twisted psalms and incantations. I feared the theatricality of his performance might prove hammy but, ach fuck it, his physical gusto – and terrific facial hair – won me over. There’s Andrew Liles, exuding confidence and adding some rock and roll swagger. I don’t know if the stance is ironic – his Bandcamp picture suggests it is – but he is charismatic enough to pull it off in any direction. There’s Colin Potter, co-responsible for Salt Marie Celeste, one of the most-listened-to-albums of my adult life. He looks as jittery as he did when performing a wonderful solo set at a disastrous, poorly attended Termite Club festival years ago (yeah, sorry about that Colin). His frantic concern that everything is working just so, even under huge swathes of clamour, is as charismatic in its way as Andrew Lile’s nonchalance. Finally, there’s Steven Stapleton, the main man, an unassuming presence on the left quietly getting on with his part in the racket whilst a slideshow of his collages is projected above.

I’ve already written about what this act means to me here so I’ll leave that largely to one side. The set itself was a swirling ball of poached noise coloured blood red, concrete grey and the iridescent green of graveyard moss by psych/dada elements. One particularly satisfying all-in tethered crescendo was a highlight. I dug it, it left me satiated. The applause at the end had that multi-faceted meaning it always does when you are in the same room as your heroes, as living legends: relief that they didn’t disappoint (c’mon, you know that is always a worry), congratulations on the actual set and, most importantly, thanks for the decades of work that led to this point.

We also clapped for TUSK – a fitting end to a terrific, beautiful, exhausting weekend. Thank you so much to all that made it happen.

CODA

Despite being a Monday there was a much more cheerful vibe on the train home: better seat, secure luggage and good eavesdropping:

Did you open your presents this morning?

Didn’t get any.

WHAAAT?! NOT EVEN A TUB OF HEROES?!!

Heh, heh.  Once everyone settled down I put Tuluum Shimmering’s Linus and Lucy on my mp3 player, a glorious 75 minute kraut/psych groove on the Peanuts theme tune, and stared backwards at everything that had just happened.  Finally it seemed time to give some serious thought to the question I’d been asked over and over again since Saturday afternoon:

What next?

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

nostradamus, quill in hand: rfm on street beers, ali robertson, dopaminos, feghoots, wizards of oi and richard youngs

November 1, 2017 at 9:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk)

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank)

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc)

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk)

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk)

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk)

 street beers

Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Newish jaxx from conceptualist, comic-lover and one half of the mighty Usurper – it’s Ali Robertson’s Street Beers.

A brief two-parter featuring a host of voices (Karen Constance [whose 100-page eye gouge ‘Optic Rabble Arouses’ is currently ripping my retina – search for copies sucka], Tina Krekels, Elkka Nyoukis, Dylan Nyoukis, Collette Robertson and one silent and unnamed Ice Cream seller) this disc meditates on the very British notion of a summer hit by recording a vicious wind blowing into a condenser mic and adding repetitive spoken word riffs via the synthetic marimba parts in Frank Zappa’s Jazz from Hell?  Just like Whigfield did.

A German-speaking / English language  / Scottish dialect text piece takes in mentions of Castle Greyskull and the Eurovision Song Contest in a stream of everyday observations glimpsed from beneath a heavy curly fringe.  Powerful images are run through a clutch of mouths adding the particular emphasis and personal inflection that makes us all individual humans.  It ain’t what you do eh?

In equal parts baffling yet academically vital this cleverly orchestrated confection is interrupted by one of the world’s greatest sounds – a ruler twanging off a desk – that somehow apes the massive and bassy reverberations of Sunn O))) or something.

It’s looped into abstraction.  Captured chatter and accidental singing whirl through the massed ‘bbbbrrrrrrrrr’ in a dense fog.

Who needs dry ice with sounds so gaseous?

ali robeertson and friends

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank) CD-r in a greetings card-style package and free digital album

Three no-star jamz in exotic locations with erotic personnel.

First up it’s a sixteen minute table-top affair from Ali with heavy-hitting guests Alex Drool and Eran Sachs.  Various gentle clutter-movements, simple tape-gasps and the presence of little mouths make this an almost ASMR-style listen.  The crinkly crackle, busy pace and full-spectrum scrape are filling my tiny ears with tiny sounds but top-up my tiny brain with big, big pictures.  Like staring at the Grand Canyon through a polo mint – the detail exists around the fragrant edges.

The cream in the sponge comes courtesy of our host with Manuel Padding and Collette Robertson.   Without any of the oddball yuks this is a beautiful tape/performance piece of gentle clicks and solitary word play.  The whirr of the tape engines adds a 100 tog warmth to the creaks, recorded footsteps and groans.  Each word (Dutch possibly? I dunno) are spoken with the world-weariness of a sleep-deprived parent.  Kindly but devastatingly hollow.  Exactly the sort of thing slow radio was made for.  CLASSIC!

The final hectic jam is a marvel of chunter and small talk.  Pub bantz, motor racing raspberries and inane local newspaper junk is run through some form of goosey phone app by either Mr A Robertson or Mr Drew Wright (take your pick) to create a 5 min melange attempting to answer – ‘what are men actually for?’

dopeaminos

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc) CD and wee booklet and digital album

This mysterious disc was slipped into my hand at TUSK festival by a furtive shadow.

Warned, “It’s a bit of a one off.” I dropped this one into the playing slot as soon as was decent.

These eleven brief tracks of sketchy synth pop are pretty much all formed on some vintage YAMAHA PSS-570 machine found in the back of a leaky cupboard.  This disc takes pre-sets to a new level of ‘fuh’. Digital noise clouds intrude on the bop-a-long rhythm settings, a ‘tiss…tiss…tiss’ snare sound and the ravaged mumble of some laid-back ‘singing.’

But what’s clear is the vision.  A singular approach to wringing all that is good and great out of crappy equipment.  Pushing at the boundaries of what is possible, probable and generally tasteful.

Examples?  ‘Bosch in Crayola’ is a 9 speed-metal pianola on digital time.  ‘Esoteric Voice Research’ could be the ultra-unknown Co Durham bedroom-band Guns R Great, ‘Primordial Soup  Exotica’ the weed-drenched wobble of a teenage Ween.  ‘VWL RMVR’ is undeniably attention-deficit rumba.  But things become perfectly formed on ‘More Confident’ as it gets down and dark with hypnotic self-help tapes battling a twig-dry beat and the sound of men crying.   The ludicrous melody quivers like tangerine jelly melting over hot chips.

File directly between Robert Ridley-Shackleton and Keyboard Money Mark.

feghoots

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

New booty from horror film aficionado and noise-music abbot Pete Cann.

For those expecting dramatic fuzz and explosive squeal you need to re-calibrate your lugs as Feghoots trades in small-scale weird.

Opener ‘Alif Showcase’ features the microscopic wrench of rubber gloves.  Elsewhere a peanut is dropped into a decorative Turkish beaker as Pete opens and reseals one of those stiff Amazon cardboard envelopes (Let Down Hair).

A shifting polystyrene crunch forms the base layer of ‘Shy Vein’ making this the noisiest offer but with owls hooting in harmony over the top any fist-pumping gets strictly Autumn Watch… it’s as mesmerising as lumpy frogspawn sculptures.

Analogue breath clicks through dry lungs on ‘Stirrup Residue’ while your roommate cleans the toaster of congealed cheese slices.  The ill-tempered scrape soon melts into antique electronics and domestic field recordings.

The penultimate piece ‘Tenderloiner’ features the lightsaber sparkle of Atsuhiro Ito with the timing of a bird in the hand.  The flickering and flighty splutters mimic a barista’s recurring dreams of hot steamed milk.  At one point I swear a double bass makes an entrance and I realise I’m getting randy for Feghoots and John Edwards to collaborate. We gotta make this happen my well-connected readers!

A finality is reached on ‘Adze Rotor’ which may or may not be the digital processing of foul water sounds captured in both Leeds and Bradford.  The gently swinging coda sweeps away any unpleasantness to focus on the slow rush of oncoming sleep.

Add a notch – Feghoots makes me nod like a Moorhen.

wizards of oi

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

There’s something about this disc that makes me think of the much-missed kings of otherness Reynols.

Possibly they share the murkiness and free, looseness of that mind-bending crew but what do I know?  It just sounds wonderfully slack to me.

While it is important to mention W.O.O are only two small bears (who ably manage to handle drums, trumpet, swanee-whistle, dirt-guitar, Wurlitzer and gloomy vocals between their four little paws) the songs are studio-enriched with foul chicken drippings.

Effects are fully ladled on to these jams landing exactly between Teo Macero and King Tubby so even the straightest opening ends up in a double valley of rainbow-reverb.  Just try ‘#Trumpets of Jericho’ or ‘#Metal Gardening’ if you doubt me.

But delicious difference is the order of the day with the too-brief ‘#Cool Pizza and a Beer’ sounding like the birth of Ska replayed by Renaldo and The Loaf in a grain silo.

It’s immediately followed by ‘#Thunderbird Glossalia’; a study for squeezed rodent and the Wurlitzer in the sort of time signature that would make Moondog honk.  When the dust clears super-distorted voices chant insistent curses while the boys sharpen their knives on sopping calf’s liver.

There’s no mercy! When stripped back to basics (guitar and drums) like on ‘#Crayolish Oisters’ it kicks no less brittle.  As if 10 Years After lost their fingers in a blues-related accident – this is the sound of the milkman ruefully cleaning up.

Closer, the intricate ‘#Free Jatz’, couples carefully controlled amp-fritz/saxophone bink with a snare-less drum snatch.  All the better for the boom!

Possibly contains a Volcano da’ Bunk or something placing this firmly on the creaking essential pile.

richard youngs

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Richard Young’s work has been a kind of shadow that’s floated around my head for about 25 years.  Every time I think – that’s it – that’s the definitive Youngs he comes out with another idea to top the last.  A chocolate fountain of a man he’s spewed out another rich brown mess too tasty to resist.

I guess this is what some beards would call a process piece.  So RY follows his own instructions…

  1. Record a shortwave radio. I used anywhere on the dial that sounded pleasing.
    2. Imitate the sound of the shortwave radio into a voice to text converter.
    3. Cut and paste the resulting text into a text to speech converter.
    4. Press play and record the result alongside original shortwave. Stretch to fit.
    5. Repeat.

A clever approach for sure but snazzy brains don’t always make great music yeah? (see Brian Eno).

This is of course marvellous.  Like the freakiest number stations or creepiest Electronic Voice Phenomena this exists in the limbo between found sound and dream logic.

Disembodied voices speak an almost-language, part-words form some yet-to-be-unencrypted dialect they pinch a brain node but leave any meaning wanting.  Sweeping from ear to ear they sound like they are warning me of something and make me scratch my pate like Nostradamus, quill in hand, hot to translate.

The shortwave pulses flutter as a jammed signal – pitchy whoops and spelks high in my hearing range.

Imagine a ghost captured on camera but then you find out the ghost that’s been deliberately summoned.

How does that make you feel?  How does that make you really feel?

Chocolate Monk

Giant Tank / Duff & Robertson

Ourodisc

-ooOOoo-

tightly packed egg: rfm tagteam on tradescantia zebrina, swiss barns & queef, various sofia artists, ian watson & rob hayler, lust rollers, of habit

October 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication)

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records)

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records)

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records)

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters)

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte)

 tradescantina 2

Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication) CD and digital album

Mysterious rumbles from the powerfully-coiffured Kev Sanders and comrades Morgan Potts and Siobhán Britton.

Released as a fund-raiser for Trans Health, Housing Action and Not Your Fault this is a master-class in enigmatic sound.

Like a Graham Lambkin joint this reflects the perfect drifting between rooms you sometimes find yourself craving – a hot sonic ear scanning like radar for ripe sound-fruit.  So what if all the apples are withered and brown – no use for a ploughman’s but perfect for chutney!

On this release Sanders’ distinctively polite drone spoons some distant storm clouds and Morgan’s cello that appears to be playing in two rooms at once. The interjection of random slowcrash (think a falling piano slowed down by a factor of 500 perhaps) keeps things both spicy and sweet.

‘Upon Afterwoods’ is particularly poignant and makes me think of Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ the waves of dark repression and longing collapsing into a domestic sinkhole.

But most mysterious is the final track ‘Clippings’ that seems to be a total bumdial. A piece of accidental accident to add a healthy dash of sauce to the proceedings.

Quick like fever.

swiss barns

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records) Cassette full of genuine moss and individual art print and digital album

New improvising duo Swiss Barns sport not one but two slack-string-virtuosos; Jorge Boehringer (AKA Core of the Coleman) and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh (Woven Skull, Three-Eyed Makara, Cian Nugent & The Cosmos) both on viola.

This 20 min side-long jam takes in a whole cornucopia of approaches: hillbilly scrape, pointillist puckering and velvet-thunder drone.  It moves with the flexibility of language, a language of vibration.  But of course – aren’t they all?

Often the off-chug of the voices clash in mid-air making a third vibration that stands proud like a cormorant on the cliffs – wings outstretched replenishing its natural oils.

At other times the slick ‘plunks’ or scrapes rustle like whole peppercorns wrapped up in newspaper; a solitary tune coils like a wormcast on a beach and, as you get your eye in you see there’s another, and another and another.

But each time one of our heroes bows it’s to let out the spirit of some half-mad Pan.  Goat-legged and hell bent on debauchery the strings swoop and flutter, they roil and stab ending on a Bernard Herrmann-esque riff that makes the watching crowd stand up, hands on hips and say ‘Oi!’

Queef! play a melodie derived from a Chinese greetings card to open a set of carefully considered tape-grot and strummed/struck/fondled summatorother.  Like Prick Decay (but older and wiser) got it back together for one last show this Dada Junk Spew flirts with litter, rubbish and trash in all senses of the words. Discarded remnants of sound, found non-instruments and a heavy ticking combine in ways both formless and totally natural.

The ghost of improv haunts some sections, the mid-point reveals the shuffling chains and dropped keys of a Usurper side but soon mutates into electro-frat clowncore – complete with honking horn and what I presume are enormous shoes.

As things move towards resolution my personal favourite – the rubbery wrench of tight balloons – is combined with a spluttering dentist’s drill and the acid squeal of hot air passing through a stretched neck.

A brief countdown ends the piece and those patrons of the Monk and Nun stand up again to crow the legend ‘Oi – Oi!’

12 14 16

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records) Cassette and digital album

A conceptual piece of tape collage/field recording masterminded with the spider-like fingers of Natalia Beylis drawing a bunch of freaky flies into her web.

The trick is (Duke Ellington knew it and Natalia Beylis knows it too) is to surround yourself with quality horns and all you have to do is play the moods.  Here the moods are played with a firm hand and clarity of vision and the horns include heads like Elkka Nyoukis, David Colohan, Andie Brown, Sharron Kraus & Ingrid Plum.

Like all good concepts this one is simple at its root.  Each contributor is asked to record two minutes of ‘something’ from their day’s activities and these moments are stitched together into two, twenty-two minute sides.

So while you’d maybe think this would result in a choppy, highly edited mix you’d be mistaken.  The domestic kitchen noise rustles into traffic ‘schuss’, birds tweet among the cutlery and bus queue politics/tannoy announcements punctuate the random clatter and swish of someone getting ready for work.

Each situation blends into the next and themes (travel, the weather, domestic chores etc) are shared between the pieces, time-zones and countries to create a disjointed yet very human narrative.

As you lose yourself in this music rhythm and texture become all important; for me this turned into an epiphany halfway through side two where some busy fidgeting and dog toy squeak is rammed up against someone lighting the gas on a cooker.  Reader…I jumped up and clapped my hands.

As a listening piece this is both cleansing sorbet and hot sticky fudge-treat.

hayler watson

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records) Cassette and free digital album

As avid RFM readers will know Rob Hayler killed off his longstanding Midwich persona rather publically at October’s TUSK festival in Gateshead.  A final Groovebox throb and hum led to an electronic disembowelling soon to be all over that youtube.  Ever the careful archivist Rob made sure his outpourings would not be stemmed.  Henceforth they gush via his solid and trustworthy everyday name –Rob Hayler.

And in this act of back-to-basics Rob doubles his impact by teaming up with the polymath Ian Watson (artist, drone-lord, electronic heavy) to launch their iron-clad ‘Metronome’.

So forget all you know about the gentle “tuk – tuk – tuk” of those cute polished wood mechanicals.  This 44 minute piece groans like mutant springs; it howls and it blisters.  It wobbles and crashes.

The scant sleeve notes suggest the source material comes from Ian and is mixed by Rob.  I always find this an interesting approach as it asks fundamental questions of the participants – how much do I present?  How much do I leave in and leave out?  Like a slow-motion improvisation the agonising decision making process is dragged from seconds into weeks!  But on ‘Metronome’ such questions are answered in a clear, unhesitating voice – this is a confident piece of duo-ism that sounds to my tin ears the greasy smearing of one decisive mind.

The mood is certainly darkly metallic, and constantly unfurling as if multiple appendages are slowly freeing themselves from a tightly packed egg.  The motion is continuous – mesmerising.  You stare unblinking, afraid to move, not daring to wonder what evil is being unwrapped.

Number one on Megatron’s playlist?

 lust rollers

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters) CD-R and digital album

The Aylesbury based duo of Mark Browne and Daniel Gregory come at ya on their second release with a sound that can and has been labelled non-music and idiot-jazz.

Silence flows through these improvisations like dark chocolate in a Vienetta. Objects are donked, flecked and pilched in unorthodox manners (not sure if there is an orthodox manner to ‘play’ a cardboard box anyways) and ‘real instruments like sax and gong are included.

The pleasure can be found in the laser-like operation your ears are required to perform in order to focus on a dense sound world of motion and decay. The scampering and rustling as the disc starts had me reaching for the volume in the car only to damn near soil myself when an unexpected gong strike erupts from the speakers like Norman Bates from behind the shower curtain.

The spirit of mischief is clearly on the agenda although my journey through grim reflections was more serene meditation then beardy euro-jazz freak out. Whilst listening, uninterrupted at home, I was genuinely shocked to find that forty minutes had elapsed. The loving approach to small sounds has a serenity and purity of intent that moves gracefully like the wind through tree branches and seems to slow down time.

I found its autumnal hues immensely soothing to my gonked-out cerebrum.  (by PUKE VOLLAR)

of habit

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte) Cassette

Gary Myles is one half of sound-confusion dingbats Spoils and Relics.

Here he offers his first official solo outing and what a curious and alluring beast it is. I found myself flipping it like a pancake in my nifty new walkman whilst taking my dog Lola out on a grey October morning.

Gary’s droll Yorkshire commentary runs through both sides like ominous smog. His droll and detached voice carries a ‘scary guy at the back of the bus’ edge that is lulling and a bit sinister. Amid the sedated thud of drum machine and soggy mechanics whirr Gary’s stoic mumbles that allude to scenes of bleak surrealism and urban squalor.

Fans of Spoils and Relics may be surprised by the more err…musical heft of this delicious little tape. There is an arc and a persistence that trudges wearily on across the whole first side, the sad thump of a cheap Casios and dying batteries. The peripheral chirping and rustling underneath the beatz sound like a rusty hospital trolley on a journey down  a corridor that has no end. It also gives a hint at what suicide may have sounded like had they grown up in a Yorkshire mining town with Ken Loach as their svengali visionary.

Side B starts with hollow loops of melody smeared with several layers of tape grime, descending into blackness. As the narration returns, grey oxide drizzle flickers malevolently in the background finding space between breath, teeth and throat. An unlikely samba limps to life briefly before puttering out like a fag end in a puddle.

Magnificent

(by  LUKE VORTEX who advises us this tape, sold out at source is AVAILABLE FROM THE BOOMKAT VAMPIRES)

Tradescantia Zebrina Bandcamp / Hairdryer Excommunication

Sophia Records

Invisible City Records

Structured Disasters Records

Entr’acte

-ooOOoo-

 

dense as blood: rfm on maalem mahmoud gania, baccam/chayer and broken shoulder, ij, grey guides and steven ball

October 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind)

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings)

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings)

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label)

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings)

 colours of the night

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind) double vinyl LP

Here’s a thing.  While the N-AU may be set in staunch opposition to some elements of popular musical culture some slices of the pie enjoy a quiet and respectful gravity.

So while the baldheads and grey beards carefully stack their noise tapes they also gently tend record collections that bulge with what was rather antiseptically packaged as World Music back in the 1980s.

But of course things have moved on since Real World or Sterns’ opened the ears of the £50 man.  Smaller, more intimate labels; Excavated Shellac, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Sublime Frequencies and Power Moves recent Excavation series have been setting heads nodding for a decade.

But be sure to add Hive Mind to your ‘must check’ list.  This new label has released a handsome album of mystical Gnawa and is a real labour of love. Brighton resident Marc Teare spent years researching and travelling in Morocco ultimately working with Mahmoud Gania’s family making sure their maiden release was done just right.   Down to the cleverly understated artwork Hive Mind has the feel of a family affair; putting pure love and deep knowledge into the weighty album you hold in your hands.

The eight generous tracks (all are between seven and ten minutes long) feature Mahmoud Gania’s   rubbery Gimbri exploring a tone that’s warmly plucked and deliciously toasted.  Small motifs are played through like scientific equations with a crisp balance between the deeply funky repetition and free-flowing fingering.   There’s a chaotic tumbling to this playing.  The earthy notes churn like a plough cutting deep into the field and turning over fertile soil. Each run reveals a perfectly formed micro-world shot through with woody detail in rich orange and brown.

An insistent, gritty percussion is skittering underneath. Like a wave of sweltering motion this tinny crackle shimmers and shudders like sunlight on a lake or the glaze on a raku pot – each tiny thread spitting into another hundred veins of rhythm.

The call-and-response vocalising lifts an already head-spinning trip into the rusty red sky on a plume of resinous smoke.  Sung in a lip-smacking mixture of Peul, Bambara, Hausa and Arabic there’s a dangerous slurring on ‘Foulani’ where Mahmoud Gania’s  authoritative declarations are repeated back by a slack throated choir, lovingly slurping over each line.

The Gimbri playing on the ten minute ‘Bala Matimba’ is as dense as blood, descending from a mightily complex riff into a smear of bass tones that bounce like magnetic bubbles constantly repelling and attracting.

Keeping things authentic ‘Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi’ features an additional drone keyboard part and marks the semi-permeable membrane that divides ancient and modern which is of course a typical western construct.

But it’s the sheer velocity of these tunes that keep me coming back again and again.  Like the joy of watching a wagon almost leap the tracks.  To my un-tutored ears this all sounds dangerously, wonderfully brittle and could rattle apart at any second – but of course it doesn’t.

The matter is in a master’s hands so the illusion of imminent collapse is a thrilling, intoxicating thing.  Me?  I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth and loving every single second.

Apparently available copies are almost down to single figures so be sure to check this out now at Hive Mind!

 broken shoulder

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

This split between Montreal’s Baccam/Chayer and Japan-based Broken Shoulder is uncommonly weighty and carefully binary.

Our Canadians syringe sweltering electronic pops and gristly-noise-rattle through my ears.  It’s like some sort of sieve has been taken to a fever dream and all that falls out are ragged scraps: fuzzy disconnected images and a neck-clawing panic.

The machine-made frightened squeals add that ghost-in-the-machine quality that I love in this kind of racket; the closing minutes of track one crack like parched lips with salty, scarlet blood staining the teeth.

Track two is a lo-slo mung-out.  Chirping figs clatter unholy toothy-pegs on one level while tracked beneath an over-stretched boil of rubber strings are bubbling merrily in a trail-battered billy can.   Huge coughs of noise splutter like the last thick green hockle of Iron Man before he starts Sweet Leafing.

Is that some sort of calliope buckling under atmospheric pressure?  Who takes a steam-organ into a bathysphere?  Baccam/Chayer have gone totally Jacques Cousteau on this one – silvery bubbles ripple though the deep as a steel piano is found on the soft sea bed.

For the wonderfully-named Broken Shoulder it’s all about technique.   He starts by spilling glue on an old keyboard and then dousing it in cold tea.  The resulting death spasms are recorded on an unreliable mini-disc swiped with funky electrons.  You go to such lengths and something remarkable is bound to happen like on this ‘Hot Wind’

‘Keep on Believing’ takes the jam to the aviary matching each colourful cheep and trill with a pulsating ur-groove.  Two notes of hope, two notes of wonder, two notes that yaw across a scaffold of just goddamn loveliness.  I can’t listen to this without a smile skimming across my ugly mug and good, wholesome thoughts drive out the bad ju-ju in my noggin.  Musical chicken soup!

More sweet and gentle air wafts through ‘Make Sure all the Doors and Windows are Open’ another wonderful tone-painting as soft as duck down in blues and pinks.   The sister-track ‘Piss Boat’ does an Eno/Fripp and seems to reverse the original sucking us back in time.  Marvellous yeah!

 IJ

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

Inge van den Kroonenberg & Jürgen De Blonde are a loved-up couple of mountain goats and therefore have a soft pad within their polished hooves.  This malleable surface provides extra grip on the sharp rocks and 5cm ledges on which they thrive.  On ‘Calling the Heard’ IJ develops their own evolutionary extension (a reversible air-sac, a throat pocket?) to plunge deeply into a world of hollow-horn drone. Impressive eh?

But extra mind-balloons are thoroughly inflated on the peerless ‘Expanding Rainbow’ a study of super-sparse mbira clicks and organ-loops.  Like a growing anxiousness each flutter of reverb sets off a small chain reaction of impish huffs that glisten like vapour trails – always too far to reach out and touch.

The ghost of reverb haunts ‘Frozen Highway’ as frisky as a tumbleweed skitter.  More breathy organ notes are stretched over the event horizon but for me the real jazz is played out in the snatches of faint conversation/street noise that blisters like paint under a blowtorch, lifting medallions of oily pigment in a beautiful rash.

grey guides 2 

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label) CD-R and digital album

Morley (near Leeds) greatest hobos bum a fag from ex-members of This Heat.

Like.  Not literally of course.  But these pieces of swollen tape-noise and crushed sonics could be a backing-tape from Cold Storage or something.

The stressed-out guitars in ‘Lame Duck Alchemist’ throb and thrum like useless string ghosts.  The cascade of puckered notes are sour to taste and wobble gingerly like a tipsy aunt.  A hussing/hishing (that’s the pucker again – this time a pair of red lips) swooshes over lazy chants and crow impressions.  This really is a blunted reality.  Anything you want to tell us lads?

But then ‘Kev’s Temple’ is a firm Dr Phibes palm on the keys with muffled grunts fighting to get heard over the filth.  The cinematic theme continues on ‘Venus-in-Furness’* that makes like a montage scene trying to convey the sense of morbid fascination one has with re-visiting locations of previous heartbreak.  The nervous system is close to collapse but continues to make bad decisions.  A two-note hum struggles to make an entrance around the wire wool messiness.

As ever there is a finger on the FFW button all through this glorious construction so playing speeds are arbitrary (See ‘New Experimental Wheelchair’).  Smears are the new clarity and act as ear-cataracts.  Only the most messed-up and bleached sound can cut through the soft tissues.

But this is by no means a grim affair. No sir!  A doubled-up whine shimmers becoming a fly trapped in a test tube.  Its furious buzzing is muted by the firm rubber bung on ‘Last Feast of Harlequin’ which could also ape Ligeti’s ‘texture music’.  Take that Gramophone!

Yet again the Grey Guides have dug deeper than most to unearth layer upon layer of groovy silt/loam/compost.  It may stink to high heaven but nourishes countless pretenders on its rich, vital nitrates.

*contender for NAU pun of the year

subsongs

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings) CD and digital album

This Mr S Ball is a long-time man.  Spending decades in Storm Bugs this is the first solo album that I’m aware of and certainly his first full album for the wonderful Linear Obsessional group.

Classy from the uncluttered front cover art to the spare arrangements for instruments and voice – this is a disc as bracing as an arctic northerly blast.

This collection of real songs is unfussy and focused.  Steven’s voice never raises much above a conversational hum, a sing/speak that’s both comforting and hypnotic.  The very normality of his vocal approach makes this an arresting enough listen – but couple this with the barely-there arrangements and you are on to a winner.

Like the Wu-Tang on their 36 Chambers best Steven practices the secret art of sticking to one distinct, lopsided sample/loop and letting it breathe.  There’s no smothering hiss on this finely recorded disc and spare bass, guitar or piano (but rarely playing at the same time) create a soft scaffold.   ‘Inside’ showcases this approach wonderfully with a handful of descending bass tones capturing a whole suitcase full of moods.

An emphasis on structure and organically developing themes makes the 15 min ‘Of the Yard (after Terry Ball)’ an exercise in deeper listening and repetition.  Sort of like a kitchen sink version of ‘There was an old lady that swallowed a fly’ cribbed from unpublished poetry notebooks (which the notes suggest it was).

Less esoteric matters are discussed on ‘Garage/Band’.  What could be a withering snark at underground poseurs ‘pretending to be bored’ Steven delivers with a kindly wink, and avuncular sigh – we’ve all been there eh?

The missing link between reductionist improv and the intimate breathy song cycles of a Robert Wyatt.

Hive Mind Records

Kirigirisu Recordings

Grey Guides Bandcamp

Linear Obsessional

-ooOOoo-

london crawling: paul margree on alex ward, onin, yeah you, stephanie merchak, sebastian camens and miya masaoka, zeena parkins and myra melford

October 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Alex Ward Proprioception (Weekertoft)

Onin –Errery (Verz Imprint)

Yeah You – Krutch (Slip)

Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method)

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional)

Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford – MZM (Infrequent Seams)

Given that my initial pitch to RFM was to become the site’s London correspondent, few of the bits and bobs I’ve reviewed thus have any link to the capital. These latest grunts of prose aim to address this imbalance, featuring some London-based artists and labels – as well as others from further afield. Read on, fellow voyagers, and enjoy.

AlexWard

Alex Ward – Proprioception (Weekertoft) CD and digital album

Alex Ward is a busy chap. In the past couple of years alone, he’s contributed to Charles Hayward’s This Is Not This Heat revival, reconciled the formal rigour of composition and the spontaneity of improvisation with group releases such as ‘Glass Shelves and Floor’, and given vent to ferocious jazz-rock-punk utterances in Forebrace. He’s also found time to pop up here, there and everywhere as a roving freelance improvisor.

More recently Ward has been rummaging around at both the micro and macro ends of his practice. With Item 10, he dives into the challenges of working with a large ensemble, again trying to square the circle of improvisational flexibility within a composed framework. But in‘Proprioception’, he focuses exclusively on the clarinet, with two acoustic improvisations and a third featuring amplification and feedback as a counterpart to his own dexterous playing.

The unamplified jams are as fluid and delightful as Ward has played.‘Vestibular’ honks and hoots with terrific, hyperactive energy, its maximalist trills tumbling into sharp-edged discordance, the full-on shredding peppered with tongue slaps and pained squeals. Phew. ‘Tiptoes’ is more languid, but grizzled too, with early scraping around the higher register morphing into gravel-pitted breaths and tubercular whoops.

If the third piece, ‘Chasm’, isn’t quite as assured, the sense of a new path being forged more than compensates. There’s plenty of this kind of stuff available for the saxophone – John Butcher still dominates the field, and Joe Wright (see below) is also worth your time – but switching in the clarinet here yields rewards. Ward uses the horn to taunt his amplification, almost, blowing just enough to trigger explosive, fuzzy yowls. Hollow breaths result in gas clouds of white noise. High-pitched squeaks draw out needling screams. At times, grit-laden globules seem to spew out into the air, claggy lumps of waterlogged ash hosed from a chimney by a crew of Victorian urchins, huffing and puffing as they clamber through the soggy darkness.
Onin

Onin – Errery (Verz Imprint) CD and digital album

 If Alex Ward’s experiments with amplification are provocative, reveling in the chaotic sounds they birth to, saxophonist Joe Wright takes a chillier, more considered approach. Onin, his duo with guitarist James Malone, is architectural in its scope, sketching out dry, empty structures pockmarked with occasional fine detailing that is both enigmatic and essential. Sounds don’t so float free from their moorings as are deployed with utmost precision to an unseen plan, working towards an unknowable, unreachable goal.

The five tracks on ‘Errery’ match dissonant feedback jags and atonal blowing from Wright’s horn with Malone’s reductionist approaches and extended techniques that turn his guitar into a sonic totem, his hollow knocking, ringing plucks and rodent squeaks emerging like background chatter from the aether.The grubby tundra of ‘Dark Star’ is a great opening salvo, Malone’s fibrous clangs echoing over the masses of Wright’s sub-zero sonics with unexpectedly emotional heft. And the album’s title track is full to the brim of things that go bump in the night, its poltergeist racket juxtaposed with almost comic stringy whoops and whistles for a big back of unheimlich fun.

But the highlight has got to be machine shop wallop of ‘Shrike’s Dance’, in which layers of oily syncopation and air-tube rattle jazz about in acousmatic fury. The title may well be a reference to ‘Pharaoh’s Dance’, the opening cut on Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, and you can just about sniff out some that weaved interplay of instrumentation here – although the gassy thumps and drill-whine of an ancient central heating system in the process of being dismantled may be a better image. The physical pulse never goes away and may inspire spot of calisthenics in all but the most sedentary listeners. Work it.

Krutch

Yeah You – Krutch (Slip) vinyl and digital album

 Attention all parents! However you view the messy, complex business of child-rearing, the business of sharing car journeys with those little bundles of joy must, surely, appeal only to the very hardiest. Put a bunch of humans of varying ages inside a metal box for any length of time and friction is almost guaranteed to ensue.

Yet there is a solution, thanks to father and daughter duo Mykl Jaxn and Elvin Brandhi. Instead of arguing about which playlist or radio station commands the vehicular airwaves, Jaxn and Brandi used their car trips as a creative spur,with journeys to the supermarket and further afield becoming opportunities to dream upabrasive bursts of stream of consciousness noise guaranteed to abuse your earlobes with their sheer broken-glass vitriol.

Such formative experiences led inexorably to the birth of Yeah You. And, although the roadtrip jam sessions aren’t so central the duo’s creative process, the acid-bath ferocity of their instantaneous songcraft has lost none of its filthy lustre. ‘Krutch’ is the pair’s sophomore release for the London-based Slip label, after 2016’s astounding and essential ‘Id Vendor’, and the venom remains in full flow. From the pure headache yowzah of ‘Fall Freed’, through to dying seconds of ‘SOIK CHAT video’s’ burnt-circuit blip, this is aural poison of the most toxic kind.

Despite the anarchy, Brandhi’s majestic flow locks perfectly with Jaxn’s soundtrack. Get a load of ‘No More Metaphors, Hold Life Still’, where Brandhi’s distorted chat is all of a piece with Jaxn’s rough synth splatter. Like all good poets – Mark E Smith, YOL – Brandhi knows that the sonic impact of her syllables is as important as their meaning, just as Jaxn feels no need to prioritise her words, her corrosive utterances fighting for space in the titanium shoebox of his soundscapes.

‘Krutch’ is, if anything, even more virulent than its predecessor, whose crunching, trap-inspired beats provided a vestige of structure on which to hang Brandhi’s bottom-of-the-universe misanthrope poetry. “No affirmation needed, no affirmation needed” spits Brandhi on ‘Hair Moats’, her voice pitchshifted with such abandon that individual syllables warp in and out of focus, as scratchy electronic percussion bites like a nest of grumpy ants and thin splurges of atonal synth cast spraycan trackmarks all around. Set phasers to rinse.

Merchak

Stephanie Merchak – Collapsing Structures (Silent Method Records) digital release

All of the pieces on StephanieMerchak’s Collapsing Structures were built from a single glockenspiel melody, reconfigured by the artists into this set of stark, compelling compositions. The way in which Merchak turns self-imposed limitation to her advantage is, frankly, astounding. From relatively humble sonic material, she fashions an array of glossy twinkles, ominous machine murmurs and deep drones, which then act as source material for her assemblages. The mood is sombre, Merchak’s metallic timbres evoking the chilly expanses of the void – although, according to her liner notes, that vast emptiness may lay correspond to inner, rather than outer space, with tracks like ‘Alone In My Head’ summoning the aimless hermetic drift and low-power neuronic glimmer of psychic breakdown as much as they evoke the freezing wonder of interstellar exploration.

If the subject matter is grim, the product of the ruminations is frequently thrilling (indeed, one could hope that focusing on such debilitating mental states provides some therapeutic as well as aesthetic value). ‘Repeated Patterns of Destruction’has a massive, alien heave, its glacial crescendos awe-inspiring and terrifying in turn. ‘Cold and Silent’, meanwhile, is almost anthemic in its wavelike shimmer and battery of clanging resonance.

There are times, for example in the sweeping oscillations of ‘Rupture’ or the layered reverberations of ‘147 Transformations’, where Merchak seems to be pitting herself against computer music heavy-hitters like Roland Kayn. However, unlike Kayn’s more system-based approach, ‘Collapsing Structures’ is very much the product of Merchak’s compositional intelligence, and the intensity and focus of her tracks is a result of her hands-on sound design and clear editorial sense. Still, listening to pieces like ‘Caught In A Loop’, it is difficult to believe that a tabletop full of Eurorack modules isn’t responsible for the multifaceted pulse and throb. That such sub-zero gorgeousness had its roots in an instrument used to teach young children basic nursery rhymes in primary schools across the land is testament to its composers’ talent. Ice cold.

Tan Object

Sebastian Camens – Tan Object (Conditional) cassette and digital album

Imagine a giant, multicoloured rubber band. Imagine two hands stretching and twisting it. But it never breaks – just gets longer and longer, gnarled into an ever-more impossible geometry. Imagine this as sound, and you’ve got a fair approximation of the nutty squelchfest that is Sebastian Camens’ ‘Tan Object’. Created using a minimal modular synth setup, Camens lays down ten slices of frenetic Dayglo electronica, each one a rabbit punch to the cortex that’ll have you seeing stars as your jacking body crumples to the floor.

Despite there being no drums in these chewy nuggets, ‘Tan Object’ is a stone-cold banger. Each track sees Camens setting up his parameters and letting them fly, the hiccupping, loop-like structures gurning into new shapes as they coil around onto themselves in the perfect combination of repetition and evolution. The upward jerk of ‘Tan Object 2’ has the shroomy hustle of Lee Morgan’s ‘Sidewinder’ after a bout of M25 motorway madness, but it’s the album’s mid-section that hits hardest.  Parts 4 and 5 marshal a motherboard full of Space Invader bleeps and bursts in a hectic, gluey morass. By ‘Tan Object 6’, fuzzy drops of white-hot sound are raining down like planet-wide invasion, ‘War of Worlds’ rescripted by Tomohiro Nishikado.

‘Tan Object’ is the second outing for Camens on London’s Conditional label, after his split release with founder Calum Gunn for the label’s debut, ‘Slant Deviations’. Since then, Conditional has delved deep into the more eccentric ends of experimental electronic music, with rkss’s ‘Brostep In The Style Of Florian Hecker’ – released as a video game and lanyard, format fans – and Ewa Justka’s searing ‘Efhksjerfbeskj’ (created entirely with homemade instruments and effects). But the Conditional release with whom ‘Tan Objects’ shares most of its DNA is Phil Julian’s ‘Clastics’. Like Camens, Julian uses his kit to set up repeating patterns that decompose gradually into bit-scrunched slurry, leaving a bunch of lovely wrecks behind. Take a look. That charred destruction is darned beautiful.

MZM

Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford: MZM (Infrequent Seams) CD and digital album

Artistic freedom can be constricting as well as a liberating. When everything is up for grabs, it takes courage to face down the void. Understandable, then, that many artists don’t, retreating into the niceties of a sonic grammar established back in the day – a problem particularly relevant in contemporary free improvisation.Thankfully, the trio of Miya Masaoka (21 string Koto) Zeena Parkins (electronics, electric harp) and Myra Melford (acoustic and prepared piano)steer a safe passage through these rocky waters. You’d hope they would, of course, given their combined skill levels working in this field. And, although his debut isn’t the first time the trio has worked together, ‘MZM’ retains the sparkiness of an initial meeting of minds, scoring an impressive hit rate despite being rooted in classic improv traditions.

That said, ‘MZM’ takes a little while to get going. The aptly titled ‘Red Spider’ and ‘Bug’, for all their energized swarm, wouldn’t look out of place in a 1980’s Emanem release. But as the radiant hues of ‘Saturn’ beam out, things look to be heading in the right direction. Balletic harp and koto figures execute a courtly dance to subdued piano chords. Hermetic feedback wallpapers the space in glowing hostility, allowing the brittle strings and moody keys to skedaddle nervously across smooth, curvilinear surfaces.

Generally, the cuts named after astronomical features fare better than their entomological counterparts, the chilly spaces offering more opportunities to winkle out refreshing twists and turns. The woody plunks of ‘Spiral’ display an enigmatic loveliness, the crabwalk improved by a piano line nodding just far enough towards Ligeti’s ‘Musica Ricercata II’ to summon some Kubrikian spookiness. Its final third is arrestingly lovely as it morphs into widescreen, creeping dread, with a growling bass drone that casts circling koto and harp motifs into uncompromising relief.

Weekertoft

Verz Imprint

Slip

Silent Method Records

Conditional

Infrequent Seams

-ooOOoo-

sunny murray’s right foot: rfm on brb>voicecoil, artwhore, no audience underground tapes, teatowels

October 7, 2017 at 8:12 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

brb>voicecoil – Reconfigure Moments (Muza Muza)

brb>voicecoil – Containment (Muza Muza)

Artwhore – Pasty Posture (Muza Muza)

Various Artists – No Audience Underground Tapes

Teatowels- We are the Deadness (Beartown Records & Tapes)

 reconfigure moments

brb>voicecoil – Reconfigure Moments (Muza Muza) Cassette and digital album

“Heavy manipulation of source material and resetting of audio time frames” says the ever informative Muza Muza website.

But even that clear warning couldn’t prepare me for the massiveness of these sonic-boulders or the grittiness of the resulting rumbling on Reconfigure Moments.

Totally elemental with that whole earth, fire, water and air gang being represented at the top of their game.  A full bandwidth vista is peeling open my reluctant eyes and saying:

FEEL YOUR BONES CRUSHED,

YOUR SKIN CRACKLES WITH PHOSPHOR,

YOU ARE BRIGHT WITH FIRE…

…until I feel myself lurching for the ‘stop’ button on the booming stereo (and in an instant thinking – the old thing has never sounded quite so vicious as this before).

Phew!

brb’s Kev Wilkinson has collected years worth of field recordings from across the UK and subjected them to the most punishing treatment turning minute taps into ocean-going groans and gossamer strokes into the poisoned lash of a stingray’s tail.   This really is ‘sound as weapon’ territory but at no moment does it ever succumb to ‘noise’ cliché.  Each sound-mugging is clear as a shiv in the moonlight and twice as sharp.  The crackles, rattles and pops are HUGE but placed with delicacy and a dark poetic logic.

The canvas is vast and as much attention is paid to the silences, the absences, as the abrasive implosions and gigantic reversed echoes like someone turned a borehole inside out.

Phew!!

FOOTNOTE: I took this down to Richer Sounds to test out a new tape deck and the smarty pants clerk looked fucking horrified when I cranked this up.  The assembled glut of customers looked round, gulped and left as one.  What more recommendation do you need comrades?

containment

brb>voicecoil – Containment (Muza Muza) Cassette and digital album

A sister piece to the fearsome ‘Reconfigure Moments’, ‘Containment’ is made up of nine unprocessed field recordings with ears precisely trained on the resonant interior of huge concrete and steel structures (I’m guessing).

This being brb>voicecoil the locations are selected with great insider knowledge of the very mechanics of these materials and years of scientific precision.

What we hear are dislocated ‘clunks’ and ‘squeals’.  Sheered of their original context the howling winds whip up these thick steel cables to really sing an unnatural overture.  There is a cold ‘thwack’ of metal against cement that reverberates in these man-made canyons, decaying gradually into another whooping collapse.

These recordings being at the mercy of the weather/ambience make strange things happen to the timings.  A dry ‘crack’ or gravely ‘crunch’ pop at the most eccentric moments.  Like the earth became Sonny Murray’s right foot, this tape swings with an internal metronome that us mere mortals can barely comprehend.  Like the freest of all jazz soaring buttresses honk deeper than Ayler and become more ‘out’ than Sun Ra.

Use this tape as an essential stepping stone readers – plug into the industrial Gaia-beat outside your door that’s as syncopated as chrome Dixieland.

artwhore

Artwhore – Pasty Posture (Muza Muza) Cassette and digital album

There was a time when you couldn’t pass a lamp post in Newcastle that wasn’t tagged with an Artwhore sticker.  They seemed to be everywhere at once: playing a thousand shows and dumping flyers to soak up spilled beer in the Barley Mow, Egypt Cottage and Broken Doll.

But while this mysterious crew had their street-art and promotion in the bag unfortunately I never caught them live.  Thankfully Muza Muza have released these lost 1996-97 recordings on a kicking and screaming public.

The issue with vintage recordings is pretty obvious – does it stand up today, right here, right now?  I’m delighted to say a firm yes to these curious electronic hummers.

The darkness is turned on for the majority of these pieces – dull thumps underscore sleet-coloured drone but an optimistic twinkle, a very Geordie characteristic if I may suggest, peppers these recordings.  What I think is ‘Vallis’ is a truly gorgeous rainbow and unicorns number, all pink sunsets and warm hugs.  By contrast ‘Hooverdub’ and ‘Electricity’ spit nails and rubber bullets.

The influence of rave culture is another signifier of the time.  It hit the toon hard and it wasn’t unusually to find dreads and skins swap their para-boots for flip flops on a Saturday night.  This strangely sounds fresh as daisies on ‘Shamm’ and ‘Horseloverfat’.

For younger readers…just think of it as the original vapour wave or something yeah?

louie and luciano

Various Artists – Live Series (No Audience Underground Tapes) Cassette with occasional inserts and detritus

And so it came to pass.

As I mentioned before on RFM  the much-loved NAU stalwarts Fucking Amateurs called it a day with their 100th release (give or take a few) earlier this year.  I’d hinted that the baton had been passed and I’m delighted to say their grubby, semi-legal but thoroughly heartfelt, true and D.I.Y corpse is being reanimated by David Howcroft (ex-Helter Skelter Records) and the impeccably named No Audience Underground Tapes.

A straight-outta-Gateshead thing NAU tapes are attending those shows that you can’t get to, jamming performances direct to tape and bundling them up in outrageous packaging.  Then dear reader they are being offered to the global underground FOR FREE!

Yup.  Keeping this real is important to Dave so he is just asking for postage right now.  But I know you are a generous bunch so an extra quid for tapes and stickers might be an idea eh?

So…what are NAU Tapes offering?  It’s an eccentric and ever-growing catalogue.

  • NAUT 01# brb>voicecoil / Vampyres / Spoils and Relics / Ali Robertson & Joyce Whitfield. Live at Soundroom Gateshead 23/07/17

  • NAUT 02# SMUT. Live at Soundroom Gateshead 13/05/17

  • NAUT 03# Watts / Fells / Church Burner. Live at Soundroom Gateshead 30/06/17

  • NAUT 04 # (Limited Edition Band Members Only) Church Burner.  30/06/17

  • NAUT 05# Trevor Wren / Proboscis / Eigengrau. Live at the Little Buildings, Byker 15/07/17 (Ed – Dave notes – quality of recordings compromised by tape recorder malfunctions)

  • NAUT 06# Sippy Cup / Ant Macari & Posset / Acrid Lactations. Live at The Old Police House 30/07/17

  • NAUT 07# Damo Suzuki’s Network. Live at Cluny2 04/08/17

  • NAUT 08# Louie Rice & Luciano Maggiore / Pinnel / Rust Ruus. Live at Workplace Gallery, Gateshead. 12/08/17

 

OK…that’s the infomercial.  What do the damn tapes sound like?

NAUT 01. Captures the dark shudder of brb>voicecoil and Vampyres in grim fidelity.  The boiling leaves a grey scum shot through with diamond streaks.  On the other side of the equation Ali Robertson & Joyce Whitfield gabber like geese in an old-timey hairdressers (the ones with huge machines you put your delicate head in).  Spoils and Relics fashioned their gruff-pumps through wires to hiss like an old factory of dreams. They are the equals sign, the fulcrum that balances a perfect evening.

life hacks

NAUT 06. Acrid Lactations swirl a hand round the gene pool and pick out several chromosome-jamz. Both skitter-dry and tape deep –the  first recording of the tiny AL with powerful lung!  Dullard Posset and real-live artist Ant Macari continue their world domination thru corporate hypnosis and evil vibes (spoken word).  The wonderful Sippy Cup (Drenching/Armitage) are as jazz as they come; each hand grabs an implement and drains it of sound-juice with expert timing.  Total clutter core!

NAUT 08. Rust Ruus presents his piece for solo snare drum, tapes and steel butter dish – KLAKA, KLACKA, KLACKA energy!  Pinnel loops soft voice and mouth pops on her Black & Decker Workmate. The crowd went wild after their vacation in these gentle hisses and slips.  The most Eno!  Rice & Maggiore are dressed in black and vibe out the audience with their regal focus and concentration.  Performance for modular synth, puckered lips, red hands and two sets of big stamping boots.  An outstanding show of control and timing.  Don’t believe me?  Order the damn tape yeah!

There’s no website comrades so please send questions, requests, stamps and good karma to : howcroft.d58@gmail.com

 teatowels

Teatowels- We are the Deadness (Beartown Records & Tapes) Cassette

As the gardener must prune their prize roses with regular surgical snips the musician must occasionally take a hatchet to their craft.  Slicing out overused approaches, chopping back any excesses and burning the lazy ideas to truly grow.

The Teatowels have cut and cut and cut until all is left is one guitar/one drum/one voice. Even the idea of a song is sliced and diced in a semi-improvised blur. Sure, some pieces on this extraordinary tape are recognisable ‘songs’ (track 6) but others are fumbles, sketches and essences that make this like a long-lost practice tape found in the bottom of a shoebox.

The rehearsal room ambience is thick with amp fug and ideas blooming in the moment. It’s a secret shared in hot breathy gasps.  The shamanic use of repetition and lowest of all known ‘fi’s’ becomes a grey carnation shuddering in an autumn storm.

If you’re looking for less botanical references the mumbled vocal, spindly guitar and boxy drums take me back to the woollen-scratchy and indistinct world when the Dead C and The Fall and Sonic Youth had a lot more in common and seemed to answer a three-way conversation back and forth across the international freak-rock underground.

And like all three examples above the process of recording became part of the signature sound: cheap studios, busted amps and exhausting schedules gave this music a patina of sleep-deprived itchiness, a splitter van’s claustrophobia.

Teatowels have built this up into an impressive whirl where things abruptly jump-cut between half-remembered jams, free-rock (track 2), drum-led moaning (track 3 ) and more realised explorations.  A deft finger on the pause button (track 7) makes some of the more hectic jamz blur with distinctive tape smear and is the perfect hot sauce on this tasty wiener.

The closer (track 8) is a lengthy nine minutes and boils all these approaches into a thin gruel applied in erratic brush strokes over the bones of the type of speaking –song-dramatic-build that Slint favour.

But instead of the Louisville drama we get an unrelenting British chug – all tension and no release; drizzle sizzling forever on the vinyl roof of a Ford Cortina.

brb>voicecoil,  Teatowels are playing TUSK festival 13th – 15th October. 

 

Muza Muza Bandcamp

Beartown Records

–ooOOoo-

neat as hand stitched brogues: rfm on duncan harrison, downer canada, permanent six flags, secluded bronte, vampyres and death in scarsdale

September 28, 2017 at 6:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Duncan Harrison – Preamble to Nihil (No Label)

Downer Canada – Watson Island English (Reading Group)

Permanent Six Flags – Harping on Units since Forever (Reading Group)

Secluded Bronte – Ten Point Plan to Destroy Astrology (Singing Knives)

Vampyres – Century Scars (Invisible City Records)

Death in Scarsdale – Ruminations (Invisible City Records)

 Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison – Preamble to Nihil (No Label) Limited cassette and digital album

Motherfucking effortless tape-jaxx from Sensei Harrison.

And it’s a right dizzying listen with over a dozen thoughts and techniques presented with a magician’s sleight of hand.

“Look mate…nothing up me sleeve and Hey Presto! “  Every few minutes a new sound wriggles into your earhole.   And a whole new set of sonic vistas and opportunities opens with each canny reveal.

I’m such a fan of this ‘in parts’ approach.  It’s like staring into a fly’s eye; multifaceted and crazily reflective.  The movements come thick and fast collapsing into each other like drunken Henry Moore nudes.   It is god damn ripe my dearest reader.

To give you a sense of the movement and pace here’s a blow-by-blow account of what I’m hearing.

(A1) …pretty-tape-loop-guitar-glitch-pretty-tape-loop-guitar-glitch…

(A2) Clipped vocal barnacles buffer spoken word

(A3) Pastoral relax.  My Auntie’s glass bell collection gathers dust.

(A4) DOMESTIC FLATMATE DRAMA over ‘savage beeping’

(A5) Street scene: part Hovis whimsy – part eye-spy on French teens and a casual ‘Alright’

(A6) Close miked plastic wrenching slides into…

(A7) …dramatic sheet metal scrape that gets occasionally rubbery.

Can I call this an act of Audio Verité?  Jeppers!  I think I just did.  I’m revelling in the damn realness of this tape.  There’s a down-to-earth honesty here – from the most casual slurp to the sweet traffic ‘schoosh’ to the single battered pipe honk.   And if that’s too highfalutin for you?  Just dig the ‘essence of compilation’ feel on this cool-spooler where the lack of linking thread becomes a damn linking thread.

(B1) Tempting mouth-pop / spluttering wetly

(B2) Carefully stitched tape hiss and static crackle

(B3) Trout Mask Clarinet

(B4) A pause.  A subtle pig grunt and pre-language glottals (this one worthy of the admission price alone)

(B5) Recorder solo from ‘Fool on the Hill’ rejected for melancholic reasons

(B6) Grand Prix for steel rats / distorto buzz / shortwave / lead fizz

(B7) Pub scene from 1764 (moist fuxx)

If this is a throw down to all tape-hounds it’s a damn effective one.

Full Nelson.   Advantage Harrison!

Any similarity to TQ zine’s review of Dunc’s pretty white slab is purely, honestly incidental.

 downer canada watson island

Downer Canada – Watson Island English (Reading Group) CD and download

More exquisite hiss from Downer Canada on the extremely classy Reading Group label.

This CD really shoves at the limits of what two crappy tapes can do.  Side one erupts like a tin teardrop rattling an electric beard.  The huss and fuss is almost overwhelming with gob iron shanties blowing dry air into a tiny rum hurricane.

Side two starts with a gentle paddling of water.

Only the most superstitious sailor brings his Dictaphone into his kayak but you’re glad he did as the simple spoken word loop decays and wobbles in the berth.

Like Alvin Lucier copped a ride or something the blunt ‘klack’ of the stop button is buried into this recording like a satisfying comma sub-dividing the loops/loops/loops whistling out of the speakers as a horny milkman would.

As gently gritty as sand in sock but one thousand times more welcome.

 six flags

Permanent Six Flags – Harping on Units Since Forever (Reading Group) CD and download

This act of wonderful sound gathering and organisation from Permanent Six Flags takes on board ritualistic field recordings, found sound, Neil Mills-style Number Poems and tape grot in short snippets and long chunks.

It acts as an ear bath for tiny souls.  In fact the hiss (we are near water at this point – dripping with fat dollops) could be carbonated pop, shook up to remain furiously contained in the bottle.

One of the few non non-musical piece features a really well played…err…clavinet, slack key guitar, broken harp or koto?  You get the gist…it’s difficult to tell what’s going on but eccentric is the style and eccentric is what becomes king right here.

Emily Martin and Derek Baron’s (SPF) best works are the psychedelic domestic recordings; spare banter with each other (or someone else) draped over an instant piano composition all echoing off the brass pots and Italian tiled floor.

The final ensemble piece for single vowels and Flemish speakers is, as you’d imagine, a riveting performance that draws all sense from the ’1’ and promises to send it to bed with no supper.

Like the endless static of space.  PSF stretch out fingers of gravity everywhere they touch.

 Secluded-Bronte-J-Bohman-R-Thomas

Secluded Bronte – Ten Point Plan to Destroy Astrology (Singing Knives) Cassette

England’s most polite whirrers and skimmers ingest a Foley artist and barf out chunks fancy as paper doilies.

Listeners!  You are in for a rare treat.  This is a full-spectrum shuffle of delicate micro-skronk and individual ear-grunts presented in a lip-smacking smorgasbord approach.  Snatches of live performance are stitched together with more intimate jams and rehearsals to create a meta-narrative of marvellous BRONTE.

AN OUTSIDER: (whistling like a careless milkman…he wanders into earshot)

THE EXPERIENCE: The gentle ‘clonk’ of various bric-a-brac rustles my lugs. The scour of grey charcoal buffers disembodied voices that cackle right and left.

A PASSING TOT: It’s no-fi, it’s lo-fi.  It’s why-fi!  Revel in the classy scrape and delicious friction punctuated by a haughty silence.  Where else does Milton Babbitt breathe cold fire into a redundant oboe? In a Secluded Bronte! (Arf Arf)

THE EXPERIENCE: all at once they chatter.  The everything-as-incoherent-as-everything-else approach bakes like a nice cake.

AN OUTSIDER: Eh?

A PASSING TOT: What I mean is from lonely eggs, boring old flour and sexy sugar a glorious Victoria Sponge emerges.  Who’d have thought it?  Beauty formed through fancy catering.

AN OUTSIDER: But I can’t make head nor tail of it.  What am I supposed to think?

A PASSING TOT: This is an exercise in reflective submission.  You must turn off the ego but remain alert.  Hook your mind on any passing detail that tickles your fancy.  Follow it through the remaining vash but hold tight.

THE EXPERIENCE: Adam Bohman, Jonathan Bohman and Richard Thomas strike, rub and mutter over the contents of a skip found outside the Royal Albert Hall.  It’s all Kensington Gore mate!  Moments are precious; a bowed wine glass becomes a gentle bell ringing.  The lucky smear of a tape manipulation fades into a brief synth hole to emerge in a fresh mountain stream.

A PASSING TOT: The music of poetry, the poetry of music.  All are born in misty Thornton but transported to modern day Catford.  These players are in most wonderful control of their hot lips and voices.

THE EXPERIENCE: Sherlock Holmes doing a crossword?  Watson’s polished cockney shouts the clues.  Multiple stories snipped from the ‘…and finally’ pile and reconstructed using sticky tape.

A PASSING TOT: See?  No instrumental interlude is ever too long but just right.  A short solo drumming, a nice tape buzz or some detritus shimmer.  These clicks and jitters form a solid structure for the voices to soar.

AN OUTSIDER:  It becomes clear.  I think I see it!  Like Tetris…blocks of sound.  I can almost feel them twist in the air to fit as neat as hand-stitched brogues.

BRONTE!  These bedtime stories are accompanied with a tea cup brimming with laudanum.

p.s. my dumb-ass laptop has issues so that means the image above is not the cover of this funky tape but pic of lovely JB and RT.  If I get shit fixed I’ll change this so you can see the real deal!

vampyres 2

Vampyres – Century Scars (Invisible City Records) Cassette and ‘gasp’ digital album

This ultra heavyweight duo (Lee Culver/Martyn Depletion) invokes the erratic pulse of a faulty jet engine heard through layers of brittle magic shells.

It’s a noisy affair for sure but these four careful hands make sure this is a totally restrained beast – there is no hurtling off willy-nilly into the stratosphere.  Rather, a disciplined and punishing set of parameters are prompted, goaded and prodded into the teetering balance between control and overload.

What I am guessing are analogue electronics provide the dark bubbling adding some lofty vertical to the roiling, earth-scorching, fuzz that’s strictly horizontal on ‘Sacred Lake’.  This is true fist in the air stuff designed for studded leather wrists.

But the lengthy ‘Abruzzo Blood Portraits’ has a melancholic air that’s hard to describe.  A longing ache is coded into the underpinning blast-furnace bluster.  And there’s real sense of loneliness and isolation in the electronic howls.  Gradually these two distinct strands rot into each other to leave a twirling, twisting Azathoth piping foul and unholy horns.  Lost on a moor you better stick to the paths right?

Side two starts with the soaring ‘Breeding Ground’ mimicking a WWII maritime disaster movie hybrid – King Kong versus the Bismarck?  The deep thrum of bi-planes starts the proceedings as they dart nimbly among the rigging.  Soon a powerful fist begins to swat the bee-like swam destroying a half-dozen at a time.  The mid-air explosions are perfectly realised on antique synth.

The final piece is the aptly named ‘Night Creatures’ and a total grim creeper.  Like medieval boiling oil torture becoming music this is complete with red-hot-poker hisses splintering of bone and the chattering of teeth as an innocent recants.

death in scarsdale

Death in Scarsdale – Ruminations (Invisible City Records) Cassette and digital album

Very, very refined tape loop/synthwerk from Dunston’s Death in Scarsdale that nudges the edges of my humble reality.

Side one consists of ‘Ruminations I’, a fifteen minute loop piece that moves at a stately, steady pace. Some sort of reed organ is huffing a tired two-note huff until the delicious ‘klunk’ of the tape splice brings us back in a never ending circle.

A light industrial clatter and simple birdsong is mixed well-down adding a crunchy base-note to the rich and complex loopage.  A brief whattle of Greek tones and smudged voices pinches this side to a satisfying and neat end.

Music to read maps to.

Side two is, you guessed it, ‘Ruminations II’, a more synth-based hum.   Like picnicking beneath electricity pylons a faint crackle exists in the air that you can smell rather than hear.  The hum is in no hurry to go anywhere and bimbles drunkenly; the subtle introduction of some domestic chiff-chaff blends perfectly with the blokes putting up scaffolding outside.

After a time I become aware of the most delicate of melodies that seems to hang in space.  I’m not sure where it came from, or when it started but it’s tweaking a memory lobe labelled A Guy Called Gerald for some reason.  There’s no acid on this wax but definitely some uplifting mojo is afoot!

Confident and meditative, this tape would sit nicely in the never-never land of Round Bale Recordings or the latest old-beard-euro-freak seam mined by Chocolate Monk.

 

Harrison Hypermarket

Reading Group

Singing Knives Records

Invisible City Records

-ooOOoo-

TUSK to TUSK: rob hayler on the year past and the ‘final’ midwich show

September 22, 2017 at 11:42 am | Posted in midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

TUSK 2017 poster

Shit.  Who would have thought that 2017 could turn out to be worse than 2016?  At the global level, possibly irreversible man-made climate change is screaming ‘I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO’ as it flattens, floods or incinerates.  The leader of the free world is a ham-faced, racist, narcissistic idiot who appears happy to boast about the prospect of nuclear war.  I started typing ‘I could go on..’ but I’m not sure I can.  I feel the same stomach-flipping foreboding that kept me awake as a teenager in the ‘80s.

On a more personal level, my plan to ‘sort everything out’ whilst on sabbatical from radio free midwich has yielded mixed results.  Without going into detail, months have been sliced from the year caring for elderly relatives following a ‘things will never be the same’ level accident.  My own life has been complicated by learning to cope with diabetes and other long-term, soul-withering nonsense that would be unwise for me to discuss on a public forum.  Everything is either an emergency or delayed indefinitely.

As I write, waves of rain are crashing against the back windows of the house, and Warehouse: Songs and Stories is playing quietly in the background, commemorating the untimely death of Grant Hart.  I look up at a post-it note with ‘fencing flatworm 2017 release: East of the Valley Blues’ written on it, placed at an optimistic angle on the wall nine months ago (sorry fellas)…

So [takes deep breath] what to do?  As always: count my blessings, be realistic, look forward. It ain’t all bad.  Living with my wife Anne and our four year old son Thomas is an inexhaustible source of strength and inspiration.  Family switches the light back on when it grows dark in my head.  Joe is doing a staggering job at the helm of this beautiful blog.  The #noiselife area of Twitter I frequent has offered an easy way of maintaining connections even at the busiest times.  And then there’s music, always music.  From bangers heard on 1Xtra whilst I’m cooking to the glottal pops and retches of the latest gurglecore tape as recommended below.

When talk of TUSK Festival 2017 started appearing on social media I recalled what a life-affirming blast it had been in 2016 and vented my frustration at our current lack of funds via a handful of joke tweets (read from bottom to top):

tusk tweets

This caught the attention of Lee Etherington, TUSK head honcho, and – fuck me – he only went for it!  So, at the moment it looks like I’m going to be hosting a discussion about the state of, ahem, ‘the underground’ then perform immediately after.  GET IN!  I’m delighted and as this is such a relatively high profile gig that I could use to springboard my career to the next level I’m going to… nah, only joking:

I’m going to use it to kill midwich.

NWW - A Sucked Orange cover pic

Some context.  One of the headline acts is Nurse With Wound.  I imagine virtually all readers of this blog will be familiar with at least some of the music of Steven Stapleton and his numerous collaborators.  As such, it is unlikely to surprise you that his work is an enormous influence on me, maybe one of the two biggest on my output as midwich.  The magickaldronetronics of Soliloquy for Lilith – constructed from recordings of self-playing pedal loops manipulated hands-off like a Theremin – is something I have pathetically tried to harness numerous times.  What might raise an eyebrow, though, is how much of the dada and whimsical side of Stapleton’s catalogue I’ve absorbed too.  In amongst the drones I’ve always used skittish interludes, sometimes jokey, sometimes intentionally irritating or deliberately on the verge of being so.  This is all the fault of albums like A Sucked Orange – a collection of off cuts that I adore – which is a perfect manifestation of Stapleton’s inspiring unconcern with the mucking about that comes with being, y’know, an actual musician.  It might genuinely be the case that the track ‘Pleasant Banjo Intro With Irritating Squeak’, a mere 43 seconds long, is the biggest musical influence not only on midwich but on how I think about what is possible in ‘the underground’.  Chew on that.

To be on the same bill as this band (albeit as part of a weekend-long festival and in an adjacent room) makes me feel rubbery with excitement and nerves.  This is pretty much all I wanted to happen one day.  Now it will, so I’m done.

(An aside on the other biggest influence on midwich: Pan sonic.  Oh god, how I loved their heaving rumble that had me gluing a coin to the cartridge to stop my prissy needle jumping off the record in disgust.  Just as impressive though was how they threaded this cyclopean density with intricacy, thought and playfulness.  Like an obsidian carving of Cthulhu shaking its polyps to Miami Bass.  The removal of the second ‘a’ from their name, then calling the following album ‘A’, is perhaps the most deadpan, thus funniest, ‘fuck you’ to corporate bullying I can think of.  Inspiring on so many levels.  I was truly saddened by Mika Vainio’s passing this year and, in my own hopelessly inadequate way, my set will be in tribute.)

pan sonic a

What then does it mean when I say ‘I’m going to kill midwich’?  Anyone who has spoken to me before or after any midwich gig of recent years has heard me complaining about the growing unreliability of the Roland MC-303 Groovebox that has been (almost) my sole instrument since 1999.  It’s a remarkable machine but it has been hammered to the point that getting what I want out of it involves an ungainly combo of cajoling and brute force.  I have long spoken of a ‘final’ performance.  This would be a ‘Greatest Hits package’ (I’m semi-serious – any requests?) ending with the tearing up of the manual and the dismantling of the machine, handing out keys, pots and components to audience members as souvenirs.  What more satisfyingly perverse way could there be to end a long term man/machine relationship than with a ritual disembowelment at a prestige venue? This finality has not yet been finalised – scheduling constraints may force a rethink – but if it proves possible I’m well up for carrying a much lighter bag back to the hotel…

groovebox

So: the prospect of a fun discussion followed by a unique performance with a self-sabotaging, tragic-comic finale, maybe even a physical souvenir!  And the same ticket – very reasonably priced weekend or day options available – sees you right for all the other choice oddness occurring too.

Unmissable, eh? See you there.

TUSK Festival 2017, Sage Gateshead, 13-15 October

midwich Bandcamp site

—ooOoo—

 

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